⚫ Recoveries of ghost guns have grown by 600% in New Jersey

⚫ 3D-printed accessories can make the guns more dangerous

⚫ Law enforcement officials cite 'ghost gun arsenals'

Building a deadly weapon can be as simple as assembling a piece of furniture.

Gun violence is down in the Garden State, but law enforcement officials are being forced to focus more of their attention on the growing threat of illegal weapons such as "ghost guns."

The untraceable weapons — assembled through 3D printing or by purchasing a kit — now represent about one-tenth of all the guns recovered by law enforcement in New Jersey. In 2019, ghost guns accounted for just 2% of recovered weapons.

"Law enforcement personnel are encountering more ghost gun arsenals in homes," said Edwin Torres, special agent for the New Jersey State Commission of Investigation.

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At the request of a lawmaker, the SCI held a hearing in Trenton to discuss the issue of illegal firearms in the Garden State. According to SCI's chair, Tiffany Williams Brewer, technology is enabling bad actors to "outgun the police in many communities."

3D-printed deadly weapons

"Can you imagine that it only takes a 3D printer, plastic filament, and a little know-how using online instructions to build a gun and gun accessories at home?" Brewer said. "As a confidential source told the SCI ... it's no more complicated than building Ikea furniture, only costing a few dollars and the time it takes to watch a TV show."

Making matters even more dangerous, SCI said, a piece of 3D-printed plastic — roughly the size of a standard Lego — can essentially convert a pistol into a machine gun. A dozen "switches" can printed in about an hour.

As recently as 2019, 55 ghost guns were recovered over a year's time in New Jersey. Today, the average is about one ghost gun recovery per day, according to investigators.

The SCI plans to issue a report in the upcoming months that includes recommendations for statutory and regulatory reforms to tackle the issue of illegal weapons.

In 2022, Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law a bill that increases penalties related to manufacturing ghost guns.

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