Inside chilling rise of ‘ghost guns’ that let killers PRINT weapons on demand as dealers boast ‘there’s no going back’

UNTRACEABLE kit machine guns are being used by gangsters in Britain, Europe and America, a new investigation reveals.

These homemade weapons are getting deadlier and easier to construct in back rooms across the world.


Mariana van Zeller watches as a gun enthusiast holds a 3D printed AR-15Credit: National Geographic
An untraceable weapon known as a 'ghost gun'


An untraceable weapon known as a ‘ghost gun’Credit: National Geographic

All the criminals need are a 3D printer, a tool kit, the right software, a USB stick and readily available parts to get going.

With gun violence increasing in Britain, the arrival of an arsenal without serial numbers is a major headache for detectives trying to track down the perpetrators.

Traditionally individual weapons could be traced back to crimes thanks to their identification numbers.

But now they are being made without them – and it’s not illegal in the United States.

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Wave of weapons

Investigative reporter Mariana van Zeller met with the makers, dealers and buyers of these flat pack firearms in both Los Angeles, California and Denver, Colorado. 

And she has been informed that similar underground operations are taking place over here.

They are already being used all across Europe, people are already assembling them

Mariana van Zeller

Award-winning journalist Mariana tells The Sun: “They are already being used all across Europe, people are already assembling them.

“You can buy the 3D printer and that’s not illegal. It is only illegal once it becomes a gun where you are.

“I know from our sources that many of these are being used in Europe.”

Ownership laws

The United Kingdom has some of the strictest gun ownership laws in the world.

Over here even possessing “any relevant component part” of a firearm can be an offence if you don’t have a licence.

But in the United States these components are only considered to be a firearm once the lower receiver is capable of discharging a deadly bullet.

Firms are selling 80 per cent complete lower receivers and the kits that help owners to turn them into killing machines.

Any criminal caught doing that in the UK could go to jail, but the easy availability of these kits means murders involving ghost guns are bound to escalate.

When I see this gun I see the fulfilment of the things I was doing. I love it

Cody Wilson

One man who doesn’t care about the damage ghost guns do is pioneer Cody Wilson.

Holding one of the weapons supplied by his company Defense Distributed, he says: “When I see this gun I see the fulfilment of the things I was doing. I love it.”

He tells Mariana in the National Geographic series Trafficked: “Anybody in the world should be able to make it if they have the right equipment.”

His firm provides parts needed to put the guns together and the know-how for drilling holes into lower receivers to make them deadly.

Registered sex offender Wilson, 34, is not concerned with how they are used, telling Mariana: “How is this my problem?”

Inspired by Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, Wilson is an anarchist determined to provide freely available information for these so-called “wiki weapons”.

Dawn of the ghost gun

Mariana meets illegal ghost gun dealers


Mariana meets illegal ghost gun dealersCredit: National Geographic
A collection of easy to conceal DIY handguns


A collection of easy to conceal DIY handgunsCredit: National Geographic

In 2013 he showed off the 3D printed Liberator single shot handgun, but less than a decade later Defense Distributed offers starter kits for semi-automatic weapons such as AR-15s and AK-47s.

He warns: “Cheap available guns, this is the world you’ll have to live in. There is no going back.”

In the United States firearms are widely available, with an estimated 400 million weapons in circulation.

But ghost guns are wanted by people who are not allowed to carry firearms due to their age or criminal convictions.

For Mariana meeting a buyer proved to be one of the scariest moments of the series when he threatened her crew.

She recalls: “We ended up in the backyard of these gang members, linked to the Sinaloa cartel in Los Angeles, just about ten or 15 minutes from my own home.

“They were building and assembling this arsenal of guns and they were selling them.

Cheap available guns, this is the world you’ll have to live in. There is no going back

Cody Wilson

“They told us they had a buyer who was coming in to buy these guns and our producer went out to warn him that we would be filming and that he could wear a mask, which he did.

“He said he was okay but then he came in super angry and started yelling at my cameraman, who has a little bit of a smirk when he films.

“He started yelling, ‘Take that smile off your face’ and he was armed with these guns himself and that was a really scary moment where we were able to calm things down and leave the place safe.

“Later that night he went on to use that gun he had purchased and he was eventually arrested that same night.”

Cop criminals

One ghost gun dealer in Denver revealed that they were even selling untraceable weapons to police officers involved in illegal activities.

The man, who wanted to remain anonymous, said: “A lot of the police officers I have sold to are part of militant groups like militias.

“There’s quite a few groups stockpiling ammo.”

But far-right activists have also used ghost guns to kill police officers.

Last year Steven Carrillo was sentenced to 41 years in prison for the murder of a sheriff’s deputy and a security man.

The follower of the anti-government Boogaloo movement used a homemade machine gun for the drive-by shooting in 2020.

Mariana met up with armed groups intent on overthrowing democracy in the United States.

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One told her that the attack on the US Capitol building in Washington on January 6 2021 by supporters of former president Donald Trump “should have been more extreme” and “I would happily die there.”

Trafficked with Mariana van Zeller continues on National Geographic on Sunday March 12.

The first gun made using a 3D printer


The first gun made using a 3D printerCredit: National Geographic
Home made weapons are now just as deadly as traditional ones


Home made weapons are now just as deadly as traditional onesCredit: National Geographic

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