A woman was arrested this week downtown allegedly carrying what police have termed a “ghost gun,” one of the most recent appearances of such weapons that are untraceable for law enforcement.
The guns are often assembled from kits sold without buyers needing to go through background checks — a standard requirement for buyers when purchasing regular guns from a federally licensed firearms dealer. The loophole makes ghost guns easier for criminals to acquire when they otherwise would not be allowed to own a firearm.
Ajade Walker, 22, was arrested with a fully loaded 9 mm ghost gun at about 3:40 p.m. Monday in the River North neighborhood following a struggle with officers, according to Chicago police. Police said she was also found with another gun that had defaced serial numbers, making it more difficult for law enforcement to trace.
Chicago police confiscate thousands of firearms off the street each year, and the number of ghost guns typically has been a small percentage of those seizures. But the number has been on the rise compared to past years, authorities said, particularly in 2021.
A law enforcement source with knowledge of the department’s efforts said about 140 ghost guns have been confiscated this year by Chicago police.
Concerns over the weapons has become part of the national debate on gun control.
Just last month, President Joe Biden’s administration proposed a series of new regulations with respect to ghost guns, including requiring retailers to run background checks before selling kits that make it easy for someone to assemble a weapon at home.
The new rules would also require manufacturers to include a serial number on the firearm “frame or receiver” in the easy-to-build kits. They would also require federally licensed firearms dealers to add serial numbers to so-called 3D-printed guns or other “un-serialized” firearms they inventory.
The group Everytown for Gun Safety has noted that ghost guns have been a weapon of choice for white supremacists or other extremists who’ve used online forums to talk about how to make them.
The group has said that since ghost guns aren’t regulated under the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ interpretation of federal law and don’t require a serial number, it’s difficult to understand the scope of the problem they pose. Nick Suplina, the group’s managing director for law and policy, said Everytown calls ghost guns “the fastest growing gun safety problem in the United States” because their creation sidesteps federal and state laws.
“The prevalence of ghost guns just gives the opportunity for people to completely avoid attempts (in) Chicago and Illinois to reduce illegal guns and ... gun violence,” Suplina said in an interview with the Tribune. “It’s really important to note that ghost guns are a small percentage of recoveries now, but to deal with the problem of ghost guns is to deal with the problem at the beginning and not after it’s already become an epidemic.”
One gun rights group, however, has argued there are other laws on the books, the 1988 federal Undetectable Firearms Act for one, that heavily regulate all firearms, including those deemed “undetectable.”
“There has been a lot of media attention recently regarding so-called ghost guns,” the National Shooting Sports Foundation says on its website. “It is important to note that this term is one created by anti-gun groups and the homemade firearms to which they are referring don’t present a public safety problem.”
Americans hobbyists have long been able to make firearms legally, the group said.
“It has allowed individuals who are passionate about building their own firearms to assemble them in their homes,” the group says of the controversial weapons. “This is the exception, not the rule. The overwhelming majority of firearms are bought through commercial sales, produced by manufacturers and sold by retailers that are federally licensed and regulated.”
As for the Chicago ghost gun case on Monday afternoon, police said officers first saw a black Audi sedan make an illegal U-turn, stopped it, and ordered occupants out when allegedly noticing marijuana in a cup holder.
The 22-year-old Walker allegedly struggled with police after trying to walk away while clutching her purse and biting one officer, according to police reports.
Police allegedly recovered the 9 mm ghost gun with a laser attachment, and the second pistol.
Walker was charged with five felonies including two counts of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon without a valid state firearm owner’s identification card, another count of possession of a firearm with a defaced serial number, and a count each of aggravated battery to a peace officer and resisting or obstructing an officer, police said. A second woman also was charged with aggravated battery in the incident.
Walker is not an authorized gun owner in Illinois, nor does she have a concealed-carry license, authorities said. Neither Walker nor a lawyer for her could immediately be reached for comment.