Not Even ATF Can Verify ATF’s ‘Ghost Gun’ Claims

3D Printed Ghost Guns
Not Even ATF Can Verify ATF’s ‘Ghost Gun’ Claims

U.S.A.-( The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has a unique reputation among federal law enforcement agencies. Quite frankly, the ATF is well known for not always telling the truth. Whether its firearm statistics, after-action reports downplaying the body count of their latest sting to backfire or quotes from senior executives, any information coming from ATF is always suspect and must always be verified.

Verifying ATF information is not easy either. They put up a lot of roadblocks. The ATF ignores Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, and its spokespeople rarely answer their phones or return emails. It’s as if the ATF doesn’t want the public to peek behind their curtain, because they too are scared of what will be found.

For example, one senior ATF official – Carlos A. Canino, former Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the ATF’s Los Angeles Field Division – can be credited for jumpstarting the war on homemade firearms, so it is especially important to verify everything he has said. After all, last year the ATF announced notice of proposed rulemaking that could regulate many of the core components of homemade firearms. To be clear, Canino’s quotes caused all of this.

In 2020, activists from the propaganda arm of former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg’s anti-gun empire asked Canino about the prevalence of homemade firearms in California. An earlier study said 30% of the guns recovered by ATF in California were unserialized “ghost guns,” but Canino said the real numbers were actually much higher. “Forty-one percent, so almost half our cases we’re coming across are these ‘ghost guns,’” Canino told the anti-gun activists. That was all it took. The entire gun-ban industry jumped on Canino’s statement like a duck on a June bug.

The war on homemade firearms had officially begun, and ATF’s Los Angeles SAC fired the first shots.


Erik Longnecker likely will not have a long or prosperous career at the ATF. Longnecker, the program manager for the ATF’s Public Affairs Division’s Office of Public and Governmental Affairs, has a habit of returning emails from investigative reporters. This is rare and not exactly career-enhancing at the ATF.

In a lengthy email chain yesterday, I asked Longnecker to verify Canino’s comments and to add some context. Specifically, how many firearms did ATF’s Los Angeles Field Division seize? Did the 41% constitute five or six homemade firearms or were there hundreds or thousands.

To be clear, Longnecker was unable to verify Canino’s statement or add any context.

“I contacted the Los Angeles Field Division earlier today after your initial email, and their Public Information Officer was unable to verify any figures provided in 2019 by former-SAC Canino without knowing the time-period(s) he used for his comments,” Longnecker said in the email. “For that reason, we rely on verifiable data generally documented on our website or obtained through a FOIA request.”

Longnecker supplied statistics about the numbers of homemade firearms he claimed were recovered by law enforcement at possible crime scenes nationwide from Jan. 1, 2016, through Dec. 31, 2020, which were submitted to ATF for tracing – a total of 23,906 guns during the five-year period, or roughly 13 guns per day.

  • 2016: 1,750
  • 2017: 2,507
  • 2018: 3,776
  • 2019: 7,161
  • 2020: 8,712

“I am not aware of any other verified PMF (Privately Made Firearm) data that has been published by ATF,” Longnecker wrote.

This is outrageous. The entire war on homemade firearms was based on alleged ATF data, which the ATF now claims it cannot verify. Civil rights are about to be violated, and gunmakers and firearm parts manufacturers are about to be put out of business, all based on spurious data from a former ATF official who the agency now appears to have disavowed.

Weaponized Data

“ATF does not label any firearm as a ‘ghost gun,’ but prefers to use the term ‘privately made firearm,” Longnecker explained during our correspondence Monday.

Whatever… No one seems to have told the Biden-Harris administration about the ATF’s preferred label. Like the anti-gun industry, the White House grabbed onto Canino’s comments and took off.

“In May 2021, the Justice Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) issued a proposed rule to help stop the proliferation of “ghost guns,” which are unserialized, privately made firearms that are increasingly being recovered at crime scenes and have been identified by law enforcement officials as a serious threat to public safety. Today, criminals are buying kits containing nearly all of the components and directions for finishing a firearm within as little as 30 minutes and using these firearms to commit crimes,” according to a White House Fact Sheet published last week, in the section titled: “Reining in the proliferation of ghost guns.”

The Chicago-Sun Times is the latest media outlet to glom onto the fact-free ghost-gun cavalcade, in an editorial titled “‘Ghost’ guns are a gift to criminals. It’s time to ban them.”

“Ghost guns are firearms purchasers assemble themselves without serial numbers, making them easy to obtain and hard to trace. Some are ‘printed’ on 3-D printers and include no metal, allowing owners to carry them through metal detectors undetected,” the paper’s editorial board wrote. Note: If some of their readers try to carry a “ghost gun” through a TSA checkpoint, they and the editorial board will likely be very surprised at the outcome.

The Chicago newspaper cited Canino’s fictional statistics and used the tired attempt at attribution – police say.

“Police say ghost guns are a growing problem,” the newspaper wrote. “Last year, they confiscated 455 ghost guns in Chicago. In 2019, law enforcement agencies recovered 10,000 ghost guns nationwide. In 2020, 41% of the ATF’s cases in Los Angeles were ghost guns.”

Police Don’t Say

None of the senior law enforcement officers I’ve interviewed about homemade firearms have said they’re a problem. Most haven’t seen any – not one. Several had their staff check their property rooms for homemade firearms recovered from crime scenes. None were found.

Several top cops accused the ATF of conflating homemade firearms with factory-made guns that have had their serial numbers illegally altered or removed, which could account for ATF’s high number of trace requests. I asked Longnecker about this. His response was somewhat vague:

“ATF investigates the criminal possession and other criminal misuse of both commercially manufactured and privately made firearms. These privately made firearms can be made from multiple sources and frequently lack serial numbers and other markings which generally make the firearms more difficult to trace,” he wrote. “ATF also investigates the criminal possession and other criminal misuse of firearms that have had serial numbers altered or obliterated. Firearms that have had serial numbers partially or fully obliterated usually have other markings that assist in the positive identification and tracing of the firearms. ATF uses this information to identify firearms trafficking patterns and related crimes.”


The war on homemade firearms – like the war on guns itself – is based on false claims, skewed statistics, faulty logic, and lashings of media hype. Both seek to demonize an inanimate object and punish legitimate gun owners for the sins of a few bad men. Whether you own a homemade firearm or not, we must all push back against what is an assault on our civil rights. Clearly, the gun-ban industry is using its bump stock template to target yet another legal product. Their move was expected, similar to their ongoing effort to ban pistol braces.

ATF’s role was expected too. They’re clearly assisting the anti-gunners by pumping up the number of tracing requests by combining homemade firearms with factory guns with altered serial numbers. How else could they claim “ghost guns” are a growing problem, right?

I have said before no one makes a better case to abolish the ATF than the ATF.

Then, as now, the country would be safer without them.

This story is presented by the Second Amendment Foundation’s Investigative Journalism Project and wouldn’t be possible without you. Please click here to make a tax-deductible donation to support more pro-gun stories like this.

About Lee Williams

Lee Williams, who is also known as “The Gun Writer,” is the chief editor of the Second Amendment Foundation’s Investigative Journalism Project. Until recently, he was also an editor for a daily newspaper in Florida. Before becoming an editor, Lee was an investigative reporter at newspapers in three states and a U.S. Territory. Before becoming a journalist, he worked as a police officer. Before becoming a cop, Lee served in the Army. He’s earned more than a dozen national journalism awards as a reporter, and three medals of valor as a cop. Lee is an avid tactical shooter.

Lee Williams

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Shocking! Who would have thought these unscrupulous brown shirts whose entire purpose is to infringe on civil rights would lie?

Defund and disband the criminal agency.

Henry Bowman

Defund every part of the federal government save for the military, but put spending caps on what they can have. Watch them go from drunken-sailor spendthrifts to misers in a microsecond!


None of the senior law enforcement officers I’ve interviewed about homemade firearms have said they’re a problem. Most haven’t seen any – not one. Several had their staff check their property rooms for homemade firearms recovered from crime scenes. None were found.

Well duh, they don’t call them “ghost” guns for nothing. When it’s time to show proof, they become invisible.

Defund the ATF!

Monkey Mouse

I have a friend who is a detective here in commie NJ – a place where “ghost guns” are a problem according to the state leadership. He gave me some interesting info – zero ghost guns were found in his town (urban/suburban town with a lot of drug crime), and only around 125 were known to have been confiscated in the entire state from 2019 to 2021, 2 full years. So 65 a year in a state of 9M with ultra strict gun laws shows that its not a problem at all.


And any number of them, even all of them, might have been stolen before confiscation.


Most criminals that rob, rape and pillage have too low of IQ to figure out how to finish one in the first place. It is way easier to steal one or buy a stolen one.


“Ghost gun” claims are like “dog whistle” racism claims. We have no real problem in America with either owner-made guns or with systemic racism, but there are people who want to use these cudgels to try leverage electoral power, so they are engaging in the ultimate gaslighting by telling us that things we never see exist and things we never hear are being said.

Henry Bowman

The only systemic racism is the racism of the D-rat Party, even from its inception. Let’s not forget that Resident of the US, Spongebrain Poopypants, was a lifelong friend of the late Grand Cyclops of the KKK, Demonrat Senator Robert Byrd.


Hey, pappy poop pants is not racist…he said he use to let the little black cockroaches climb on his hairy legs at the pool.


Isn’t great that Biden has been caught on audio/video using the N world and saying other blatantly racist things numerous times yet Trump was painted as the racist.


Man, can you provide a link with him saying the N word. That would be, in the words of our current liar and thief, a big fucking deal.


I wish I had at least bookmarked the page it was on. But it was in public and nobody in his audience seemed upset. I remember the phrase “big n***** chief”. I honestly don’t feel like spending the time to to dig it up. The committed Dim O Crats are so in the grip of mass formation psychosis that they’ll go to great lengths if mental gymnastics to explain it away.


No problem with not digging it up. I have no reason to not believe you but it would have been nice to have the link to spread around to all the racist demonkkkrats that think he is not racist.
Have a great day.


LOL, awaiting approval. Must have been the quote by our current liar and thief Uncle Joe kamalatoe obiden.

Henry Bowman

If I wanna trigger the Al Gore Rhythm, I call Dementia Joe “Pedo Joe”

Henry Bowman

Saul Alinksy 101: Always accuse the enemy of that which you’re guilty of. (Rules for Radicals)


BATF= Bunch of Asshats, Tyrants and Fools! Ah, that much better!

Wild Bill

That is most humorous!

Henry Bowman

Since 1993 they are known as Burn All Toddlers First. And their partners in Jack Booted Thuggery is: Federal Baby Immolators!

And those who lick their boots are Negotiating Rights Away.


“‘Liberals/socialists are a gift to criminals. It’s time to ban them.”


If these clowns gig at the BATF does not work out they can always get a job co hosting the VIEW with Whoopi and Joy

Wild Bill

That is funny, and not to be read while drinking coffee!!


That is cruel and unusual punishment!

Son of Waylon

I’d be a worried about a 3D printed barrel


I wonder if they ever tried to print a spring? Or a firing pin?


They saw it in a Clint Eastwood movie 20 years ago, so it must be true.


just sent a foia to miami-dade police department to see how many pmf’s have been recovered at crime scenes.

F Riehl, Editor in Chief

@Gregs if you get that back, send us a copy to [email protected]

Wild Bill

Thank you for getting me out of the AI, “Awaiting Approval” calaboso, patrón !

Last edited 10 months ago by Wild Bill
F Riehl, Editor in Chief

NoProb, avoid making any ad hominem comments, just walk away from the back and forth bickering.

Wild Bill

Does Florida have a state version of the Freedom of Information Act?


If I remember correctly, Florida has always made public records very easy accessible.


 The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has a unique reputation among federal law enforcement agencies. Quite frankly, the ATF is well known for not always telling the truth. “

You shouldn’t start your article with a fact that is easily proven to be wrong. The ATF is not unique, all federal law enforcement agencies lie all the time.

Henry Bowman

Correct. They’ve been doing this every day since the day after the courts ruled that enforcers could lie.


The way to know that they are lying is they don’t give a percentage of guns recovered that are home made vs commercially made guns. If it really were a problem they’d say XX% of recovered guns were home made and not “there was a 100% increase in home made guns recovered” meaning last year we got 1 this year we got 2.


It brings to mind an old saying. There are lies, damn lies and statistics.:


You can torture a number until it confesses to anything!


LOL, you got how the game works down pat. Right on. Glad you can see the light.


Lee, did you ever ask how many perpetrators of violence with a gun were identified where the sole clue was tracing a firearm? (Perhaps a rhetorical question since I believe BATFE already told a Senate committee that they did not know.) And really, unless a criminal is severely injured how many leave there gat behind at the scene? How many of the 23,906 were connected to a shooting?


I’m constantly baffled by this obsession with “tracing”.As many as 90% of guns used by criminals are stolen guns obtained on the black market. Are they concerned about finding the rightful owner so their property may be returned?
If a perp caught with a gun is facing a multitude of serious charges, knock off A LITTLE bit of time to get them to give up their source. Threaten to turn them over to the feds for a 10 year bid and most will start naming names.


I’ve often said, over and over, CRIMES have victims. If there is no victim, there is no crime. And it doesn’t matter if the crime is committed using a weapon with or without a serial number. The weapon doesn’t commit a crime and to put blame on people who have not committed a crime because they have a particular weapon is tyranny by any other name.


All I have to say is all of the is (“BULL S__T”) Being born and raised in North America, the good ole US of A. I was always raised to believe in my country, come hell or highwater, and that I was born with inalienable Rights, granted to me by our founding fathers being the Constitution for (“We The People”) to protect us from our own (“Government” Tyranny and Oppression), but what I do not see is We The People, where is We The People now that the government is forcing Oppression and Tyranny down our throats and infringing on… Read more »

Last edited 9 months ago by ashort