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Des Moines police have recovered 3 ghost guns in the month of May

The "do-it-yourself" guns can be assembled in as little as 30 minutes, and are impossible for investigators to track.

DES MOINES, Iowa — The Des Moines Police Department says its officers recovered three ghost guns in May. 

Ghost guns are homemade firearms assembled with kits bought online or created through a 3D printer. The weapons can be built in as little as 30 minutes. They can be bought by anyone regardless of age or criminal background and also don't contain a serial number. 

That changed in April, when President Joe Biden announced new restrictions on the weapons. Those changes included requiring background checks for purchasers of ghost guns, requiring vendors to include serial numbers on the pieces it sells and firearm dealers to add serial numbers to ghost guns they encounter. Those regulations would go into effect 120 days after it's published in the Federal Register, depending on any legal challenges they end up facing. 

"They're basically a DIY gun," said Des Moines Police Sgt. Paul Parizek. "It starts out, great spirit, great intentions, but then that criminal element latches on to it. And then we've got a whole new problem on our hands."

Parizek says without a serial number, ghost guns provide officers with no investigative information like who bought the weapon or if it's stolen. That's sentiment shared by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives 

"If you're investigating a violent crime in which a firearm was used and that gun was purchased four days ago or six days ago we can tell you who purchased it," said ATF Kansas City Public Information Officer John Ham. The Kansas City ATF Division Office overseas Iowa. 

"If it's the case that you didn't have anything else to go on, all of a sudden you've got people to talk to. All of a sudden you've got people to interview. And so that information becomes critical in solving that case. With ghost guns, all of that's off the table for law enforcement, we can't provide any information."

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But Ham says so far, agents in Iowa haven't seen a concerning uptick of the weapons. 

"The recoveries in the state of Iowa have been very, very low,"

Ham says generally, the ATF is seeing low numbers of ghost guns throughout the midwest compared to other regions of the U.S.

"But obviously it only takes one instance of someone obtaining a kit, putting it together, assembling a functioning firearm, and then using that firearm and to create just an absolute public safety nightmare."

Parizek says one of the recently recovered ghost guns, belonged to someone too young to posses it. 

"At least one of them was possessed by a juvenile," said Parizek. "When you start thinking about that, and how are they getting it? And how do they have that connection to get a weapon like that?"

In total, DMPD says it's recovered fewer than 10 ghost guns so far in 2022. In total, it's recovered 315 firearms as of May 18th. 

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