Part of America’s struggle to tackle what many have called the gun violence epidemic is realizing that anyone can go online and research how to make a phantom weapon.
Law enforcement officials have linked dozens of YouTube videos depicting ghost weapon assembly videos from countless shootings in recent years, noting that the videos have millions of views.
NBC sent Google, YouTube’s parent company, links to six videos – which have collectively accounted for more than 1.2 million visits – soliciting comments on how it enforces its gun policy.
YouTube deleted the videos within hours, but dozens of similar videos remain, according to NBC.
Some of the videos were posted as early as 2013, with many ranging from 1,000 views to over half a million.
YouTube said in a statement that with more than 500 hours of content uploaded to the site every minute, it relies heavily on “advanced machine learning” and user reports to flag videos that may violate its. policies. Employees then review the videos to determine if they should be deleted.
In 2019, The trace, a non-profit news organization that focuses on gun violence, found that YouTube hosted videos on how to make 3D printed guns that violated its policies. NBC News details that the trace said he reported several videos through YouTube’s mechanism to report rule violations, but that the company deleted the offending videos only after The Trace contacted him directly.
“It’s surprising to me that YouTube doesn’t take a closer look and enforce a rule that they themselves have set,” said Jim burch, chairman of the National Police Foundation, an impartial law enforcement think tank, cited by NBC News.
âThey can’t be asleep at the wheel about it,â he added.
Law enforcement has recovered nearly 24,000 phantom weapons in the past five years, according to a recent report Press release from the Ministry of Justice. In 2016, they seized 1,750; last year that number had skyrocketed to 8,700.
Further Reading: ‘Ghost Guns’ Fuel Rise of Nationwide Violence
The conversation around the proliferation of ghost gun content on YouTube recently surfaced, as New Jersey police arrested a man they suspect of trafficking “ghost guns” and their worst fears have been confirmed.
Authorities arrested William R. Pillus, a 23-year-old man from Lincoln Park, and charged him with five firearms offenses for bringing ghost weapon kits across the Delaware River after bought them at a gun show in Pennsylvania in September. according to a statement by Acting New Jersey Attorney General Andrew Bruck, noted by North Jersey.com.
According to North Jersey.com, Police seized an un-serialized AR-15 style semi-automatic rifle from Pillus’ car and house; 13 9mm handgun kits containing slides, barrels and springs; two high-capacity 30-round AR-15 magazines; two magazines of 35 cartridges; more than a dozen magazines of 12 cartridges; 400 rounds of 9mm ammunition; 13 Polymer 80 âP80â boxes containing 9mm grip and trigger housing kits (subcompact firearm frames), none of which was printed with a serial number; three AR-15 frames; handwritten assembly instructions for handguns; and various tools for manufacturing firearms.
“Our message to gun traffickers is clear: If you bring illegal guns into our state, we will prosecute you with all the force of the law,” Bruck said in the statement. “We are committed to shutting down the pipeline of illegal firearms in New Jersey, especially the untraceable ‘ghost guns’ that are quickly becoming a favorite with criminals.”
While chatting with Pillus, he admitted that the source of his gun-making knowledge was YouTube.
See also: “Phantom weapons” increase threat of far-right violence: researcher