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Connecticut teen and his grandfather, 64, arrested for running ghost gun operation in backyard

A teen and his grandfather were arrested at their Connecticut home for running a ghost gun operation where they would allegedly manufacture AR-15s in a makeshift shed out of their backyard.

Clayton Hobby, 18, and Kerry Schunk, 64, were taken into custody on Monday by East Hampton Police after a neighbor learnt of the pair’s activity over the weekend, the New York Post reported. 

Several ghost guns, including multiple AR-15s at ‘various stages of assembly’ and three polymer handguns, as well as 15 high capacity magazines, a bullet proof vest with local police badges on it and approximately 1,000 rounds of ammunition were seized by local authorities.

It was reported that one of the larger AR-15 rifles was converted to shoot fully automatic, just like a machine gun. 

The pair were both charged in connection with the secret operation. Hobby was arrested on 23 counts of gun making and weapons possession. He is currently being held on a $250,000 bond, according to a press release from East Hampton Police. 

Schunk was handed 22 conspiracy counts in relation to the illegal activity. He was also charged with interfering with an officer and was held on a $100,000 bond, the press release added. 

East Hampton police discovered and confiscated a extensive amount of illegal ghost handguns and several AR-15 rifles, as well as magazines, a bullet proof vest, police patches, approximately 1,000 rounds of ammunition and a far-right book: ‘Poor Man’s James Bond’ 

Clayton Hobby, 18, was arrested on 23 counts of gun making and weapons possession charges and was being held on a $250,000 bond

Hobby's grandfather, Kerry Schunk, 64, was charged with 22 conspiracy counts in relation to the undercover operation, and one charge of interfering with an officer

Clayton Hobby, 18, was arrested on 23 counts of gun making and weapons possession charges and was being held on a $250,000 bond. Hobby’s grandfather, Kerry Schunk, 64, was charged with 22 conspiracy counts in relation to the undercover operation, and one charge of interfering with an officer

Privately made firearms, also known as ghost guns or homemade firearms, are broken down into parts that usually come in a kit and need assembling. 

In the US, they lack a commercially-applied serial number, which make them untraceable. On Monday, the guns found had fake serial numbers on them, the Middletown Press reported.

Overall, ghost guns are illegal in Connecticut but those that were manufactured before 2019 were ruled as an exception and require a serial number. 

Among the stash of illegal weapons that were found was also a book with a far-right narrative, titled ‘Poor Man’s James Bond’, written by American neo-Nazi author Klay Claxton. 

Similar to the Anarchist Cookbook, these type of novels embody far-right militia ideologies and thoughts, as well as ways to build improvised weapons, bombs and munition.

The discovery was made earlier this week after a neighbor was worried about the illegal activity, conducted in the shed of the home's yard in East Hampton, Connecticut

The discovery was made earlier this week after a neighbor was worried about the illegal activity, conducted in the shed of the home’s yard in East Hampton, Connecticut

One of the AR-15 rifles found at the home which was surrounded by other weapons

One of the AR-15 rifles found at the home which was surrounded by other weapons

A bullet proof vest which appeared to have two patches from the local police force on them

A bullet proof vest which appeared to have two patches from the local police force on them

Among the stash of illegal weapons that were found was also a book with a far-right narrative, titled 'Poor Man's James Bond', written by American neo-Nazi author Klay Claxton

Among the stash of illegal weapons that were found was also a book with a far-right narrative, titled ‘Poor Man’s James Bond’, written by American neo-Nazi author Klay Claxton 

They are also often found on crime scenes, particularly in incidents related to targeted shootings or illegal gun activity.

After the pair’s arrest, Hobby told local police he bought the weapons and ammo online, the Middletown Press reported. He said he made the purchases to protect his family and didn’t have the intent to use them to hurt people. 

On Monday, Schunk reportedly walked inside a East Hampton Police station and inquired on the ‘legalities of building an AR-15’ wit his grandson, according to the local outlet. Schunk raised questions to police to ensure that he and his grandson were within the law to build the weapon, which he also raised to officers.

He further said told cops at the station that his grandson had received the rifle in the mail several months ago and that it did not have a serial number, prompting him to ‘smash it apart with a hammer’ before he ‘threw it away’, a police reported on both individuals’ arrests stated. Once he was in custody, Schunk confessed to police that he had lied. 

He further told cops that he and Hobby had not purchased any further gun parts or assembled any firearms since then. 

Police then asked Schunk to provide a written statement, which he did not do. The 64-year-old then left the station in a hurry, telling officers that he would be back with his grandson to explain their activity. 

Authorities, however, grew worried that Schunk would go back to the shed where he helped Hobby with assembling different types of weapons and would destroy the rifle that he had initially inquired about.

When they arrived at the family home, police saw Schunk walk up to it before he reportedly told them: ‘I got some things to take care of.’

‘Everything is mine,’ Hobby told police officers when they discovered the hideout, the police report states. ‘My grandfather had nothing to do with it.’ 

After that, police found all the weapons, including the automatic rifle, and several backpacks loaded with gun parts, tools to assemble them, metal ammunition and a holster. 

The arrests were made after the discovery, but Schunk told police his grandson was a good kid and ‘did not believe Hobby had any evil intentions,’ the police report said. 

The pair’s court dates are unknown. 

Biden’s war on ghost guns and how do they differ from other firearms?

The Biden administration is unveiling a completed rule aimed at reining in the proliferation of ghost guns, firearms without serial numbers that have been turning up at crime scenes across the nation in increasing numbers.

The White House and the Justice Department argue that regulating the firearms parts and requiring dealers to stamp serial numbers on ghost guns will help drive down violent crime and aid investigators in solving crimes. Gun groups, however, argue that the government is overreaching and that its rule violates federal law.

WHAT ARE GHOST GUNS? 

Ghost guns are privately-made firearms without serial numbers that usually come in a kit.

Generally, firearms manufactured by licensed companies in the US are required to have serial numbers – usually displayed on the frame of the gun – that allow officials to trace the gun back to the manufacturer, the firearms dealer and original purchaser.

Ghost guns, however, are made of parts and are then assembled together. The critical component in building an untraceable gun is what is known as the lower receiver. Some are sold in do-it-yourself kits and the receivers are typically made from metal or polymer.

An unfinished receiver — sometimes referred to as an ’80-percent receiver’ — can be legally bought online with no serial numbers or other markings on it, no license required. Under the current rules, the federal government does not consider unfinished lower receivers to be firearms. 

WHAT DOES THE RULE DO?

It changes the definition of a firearm and will require federal firearms dealers to add serial numbers to ghost guns that come their way.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has, for years, said that unfinished lower receivers don’t meet the legal definition of a firearm. And there is nothing illegal about building your own firearm.

It’s legal to make your own firearm if it’s for your personal use and you don’t intend to sell it. But if you open a business selling guns, you need a federal firearms license.

Under the new rule, the definition of a firearm would change to include unfinished parts, like the frame of a handgun or the receiver of a long gun. The rule also would require those parts to be licensed and include serial numbers. Dealers would also need to run background checks before a sale — just like they do with other commercially made firearms.

The requirement applies regardless of how the firearm was made, meaning it includes ghost guns made from individual parts, kits, or by 3D-printers.

It also will compel federally licensed dealers and gunsmiths who take in firearms without serial numbers to add serial numbers. That means, for example, if someone sells a ghost gun to a pawn broker – or other licensed dealer – the dealer must put a serial number on it before selling the gun to someone else.

HOW PREVELANT ARE GHOST GUNS?

Ghost guns aren’t new. But they are becoming a growing problem for law enforcement agencies across the U.S.

Federal officials have been sounding the alarm about the growing black market for homemade, military-style semi-automatic rifles and handguns. And guns without serial numbers have been turning up more frequently at crime scenes. They have also been increasingly encountered when federal agents buy guns in undercover operations from gang members and other criminals.

Ghost guns really popped into the public consciousness in 2013 when a gunman, John Zawahri, opened fire on the campus of Santa Monica College in California. Six people were killed, including Zawahri’s father and brother. The suspect had assembled an AR-15 after failing a background check at a gun dealer.

A gunman who killed his wife and four others in Northern California in 2017 had been prohibited from owning firearms, but he built his own to skirt the court order before his rampage. And in 2019, a teenager used a homemade handgun to fatally shoot two classmates and wound three others at a school in suburban Los Angeles.

The sale of ghost guns has exploded since then. It is hard to say how many are circulating on the streets, in part because in many cases police departments don’t contact the government about the guns because they can’t be traced.

Justice Department statistics show that nearly 24,000 ghost guns were recovered by law enforcement at crime scenes and reported to the government from 2016 to 2020. The New York Police Department said officers found 131 firearms without serial numbers since January.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

The Justice Department said the rule goes into effect 120 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register. But it’s likely the rule will be be met with heavy resistance from gun groups and draw litigation in the coming weeks. Even reaching the point of introducing a rule has taken more than a year. Biden announced plans to impose tighter regulations on ghost guns in April 2021.

Gun Owners of America vowed that it would immediately fight the rule and that it would sue the ATF ‘to halt the implementation of this rule.’

Source: Associated Press 


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