Whether or not you believe in ghosts, “ghost” guns are a real problem that plagues Queens.
In an effort to prevent gun violence in the borough, the District Attorney’s Office continues to crack down on the illegally assembled, homemade weapons that lack trackable serial numbers.
Last week, District Attorney Melinda Katz and NYPD Chief of Intelligence Thomas Galati announced that Jonathan Santos of Richmond Hill faces numerous charges for the possession of ghost weapons in his home and vehicle.
In a three-month time span, four ghost gun busts have been taken place in Queens, two in Richmond Hill, one in Hollis and another in Rosedale, with a total of five defendants.
Katz emphasized that each ghost weapon recovered by the police is one weapon kept off of the streets.
“We as a team have a clear message to those individuals who think they can manufacture, traffic or use their untraceable firearms,” said Katz. “You may think you’re clever, but think again.
“We will stay one step ahead of you,” she added. “If you think you can get away with bringing gun parts into our borough, we will find you, we will prosecute you.”
Galati said that ghost guns aren’t only an issue in New York City, they are becoming more prominent throughout the country as a whole.
NYPD Deputy Inspector Courtney Nilan runs a field intelligence team that was formed solely to focus on retrieving these weapons.
She explained that ghost guns are a fairly recent phenomenon, and police started seeing small quantities of them in 2018. But the numbers continue to increase by the year.
“Day in and day out, cops in every precinct are coming across these guns, which shows a troubling trend that we need to tackle head on,” she said.
The underground market for ghost guns is attractive to various groups of people, from gangs to Second Amendment right advocates.
Shanon LaCorte, assistant district attorney and director of the Crime Strategies and Intelligence Unit, said the illegal sales of ghost guns generate a handsome profit, as individuals sell them at a markup.
“Some individuals that we’re investigating sell just the lower receivers, because there is demand for them, he explained. “Those get marked up 20 percent or so. Traditional firearms are marked up in similar numbers.”
The prices of these illegal guns are also decreasing and becoming easier to obtain as a result of more online retailers arriving on the black market.
“Any individual sitting in this room right now could go online and order kits to build these guns with no background checks and no license,” said Nilan. “It’s a hindrance on any investigation if any crime is committed with these guns because they’re that much harder to trace. We have to be more innovative.”