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Untraceable ghost guns may pose potential risk in schools

JStark1809 / Deterrence Dispensed
Extracted from FGC-9 release file

This year there was a shooting at Albuquerque’s West Mesa High School, killing one student. What was different about this shooting was the use of a ghost gun. Ghost guns are unserialized and untraceable because individual parts and equipment are often sold in kits or printed for at-home assembly. These parts are widely available and can be purchased without a background check. KUNM spoke with Miranda Viscoli, co-president of New Mexicans To Prevent Gun Violence who says these weapons may change how we think about preventing the next school shooting.

MIRANDA VISCOLI: There's two different things happening with the quote unquote ghost guns. So there's the ones that you can get a 3D printer and create a gun. Those cost about $1,600.

But what's more worrisome than that are actually the gun kits, because they're much less expensive. And you don't need to basically need a screwdriver and don't need to have very good skills in terms of putting things together, right? And those are much less expensive. So you can get a semi-automatic handgun for approximately $300 and then an AR-15 for approximately $600. And there are ways of, you know, buying these online, no questions asked. So that's something we need to rein in. Because right now, as we saw at the high school in Albuquerque, the young man printed out a gun, and that gun ended up killing him and the person who killed him was a 14-year-old boy. So in my opinion, we lost two kids there.

KUNM: It feels like every time there's a school shooting, we're learning more about how young adults are gaining access to guns in various ways. Are you concerned that ghost guns will become a bigger problem with increasing the amount of school shootings?

VISCOLI: You know, we don't know in New Mexico too much about that yet. Most what we're seeing is that most of the teens that are getting firearms are buying them off the street, and those are most often times stolen guns. So a lot of times they're stolen out of cars.

So if gun owners want to actually do something to prevent gun violence, one thing they could do, and it's a very simple thing to do, is don't leave a gun unlocked in their car. We're starting to see an uptick nationally of these ghost guns and these ghost kits getting in the hands of youth. But the data isn't really there yet.

KUNM: By the end of this month, schools will be in session across the state. What should schools be aware of when it comes to school violence, and especially when it comes to ghost guns.

VISCOLI: I think they should treat ghost guns the way they treat any gun. We need to talk about the kids having access to firearms. I would love to see the student pledge against gun violence implemented in every school. What we saw was that when we were doing the Student Pledge Against Gun Violencein New Mexico, in Northern New Mexico, the youth resilience survey showed a 54% reduction of youth bringing guns to school.

Another simple simple program that schools can do is get their seniors to talk to the freshman class or to go to middle schools and talk to them about not doing something unfortunate with a firearm.

I think our teachers also have to talk to our youth about “see something, say something” does oftentimes work and we need to take our youth seriously, when they think that something has happened. Another thing our schools can do is get the trainings on extreme risk protection orders, right? New Mexicans To Prevent Gun Violence offers free trainings.

KUNM: And what would you say to students who may think something is wrong but don’t feel completely comfortable going to someone with their concerns?

VISCOLI: I can understand how the youth would feel they have to go to a trusted adult. In that school, that student needs to remain anonymous. And also, they're not ruining that kid's life. They're saving that kid's life. Because I can tell you, if that kid does bring his gun to school and pulls that trigger, that life just got ruined, as well as the lives of those that that student killed.

It shouldn't be that it's on the shoulders of our youth. I don't think it's fair, but that's where we are.

This coverage is made possible by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and KUNM listeners.

Taylor is a reporter with our Poverty and Public Health project. She is a lover of books and a proud dog mom. She's been published in Albuquerque The Magazine several times and enjoys writing about politics and travel.
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