Rochester Police seeing uptick in ghost guns seized from teens; gray area in legality of printing parts

(ABC 6 News) – This year, local law enforcement saw an uptick in the number of ghost guns confiscated during search warrants.

In August, Rochester Police served seven warrants that lead to the discovery of multiple ghost guns made by a 3D printer that were in possession by juveniles.

Some of those guns are made using 3D printers but some experts say the legality surrounding these guns is a bit confusing. The confusion stems from the fact that it is not illegal for people to acquire parts to put together their own guns.

What makes it illegal is if the gun is 3D printed or assembled without a serial number on it.

“Ghost guns are complicated because often part of the issue is often part of the issue is how much of the gun actually exists,” said Olmsted County Attorney Mark Ostrem. “We’ve encountered fully constructed guns and parts. A ghost gun can also be a regular fire arm that someone shaved off the serial number.”

In 2023 alone, the Rochester Police Department seized six ghost guns made from 3D printers during search warrants. But the method of acquiring and building these guns is still a conundrum for law enforcement and attorneys; especially if only components of the gun officially “exist.”

“The confusing part of the ghost guns generally is that somebody has sent for these pieces and received them and then they are able to do the final, what I’ll loosely describe as manufacture, to put these things together,” Ostrem said.

Ostrem said the state of Minnesota has no clear definition of ghost guns. But the dangers of these 3D printed guns in the hands of those making them concerns him more, especially if they’re minors.

“Not only does it create this gun, it’s not really a safe weapon either. If someone puts a live ammo in there and shoots it, the whole thing may explode in their hands,” said Ostrem.

RPD has confirmed that they’re still involved in several investigations involving the manufacturing and distribution of ghost guns.

Ostrem says his office has not had to try any ghost guns in a court of law yet and hopes a clearer legal definition and history on the matter in court will come in the future.