Some ‘ghost guns’ found in SE Minnesota, increase nationwide

(ABC 6 News) – Rochester Police arrested 20-year-old Theophilus Jreh on Friday, and he was charged with felony possession of a machine gun. Officers also found a case full of materials to create a handgun.

None of those materials contained any serial or identification numbers. It’s what some call – a ghost gun.

“Certain people – or certain states – have different registration requirements for firearms, so being able to shield it from the legal definition of a firearm, because it’s not yet completed, allows them to be more easily sold in different states,” said Captain Tim Parkin with the Olmsted County Sheriff’s Office.

A February 2023 study by the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) shows ghost guns are “an emerging issue.”

The number of ghost guns being submitted to the ATF more than doubled between 2020 and 2021.

The Olmsted County Sheriff’s Office says it’s hard to get a clear picture of how many ghost guns are used in crime in Southeast Minnesota.

“I do know that from time to time we are recovering ghost guns. I don’t know that we’re recovering them currently at the record that we have in the past. I know that, a few years ago, they all of a sudden came onto the scene and became very prevalent,” Parkin explained

.But law enforcement also points out that unless a person is otherwise prohibited from owning a firearm, it’s not illegal to own a gun kit or homemade firearm in your home.

William Sanson, the owner of B&L Guns and Rental in Dodge Center, says for some gun enthusiasts – building a gun is something they do for fun.

“It’s a hobby, like working on a car. There’s welding and machine-ing…It’s not the average person on the corner that’s going to take on a job like that,” Sanson said.

He says, if gun kits don’t get into the hands of someone inclined to do crime, they’re not dangerous. Gun kits take years of skill and gun knowledge to put together, according to Sanson.

“If that thing is off just several thousandths, then that gun won’t function.”

Sanson and the sheriff’s office emphasized that it’s safer for the public if all guns are registered with a serial number.

“That’s part of the responsibility of the person that builds that firearm: to register it and put a serial number on it,” said Sanson.

Last year a new federal law took effect – requiring commercial makers of gun kits to include a serial number. The sheriff’s office says that the law may have helped decrease ghost gun traffic they see locally.