Teen used ‘ghost gun’ in California high school shooting

Teen used ‘ghost gun’ in California high school shooting

LOS ANGELES — The 16-year-old boy who fatally shot two fellow students and wounded three others last week at a Southern California high school used an unregistered, untraceable “ghost gun,” Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said Thursday.

Villanueva told media outlets that Nathaniel Berhow’s .45 calibre, 1911-model replica semi-automatic pistol was assembled from gun parts and did not have a serial number.

Such weapons are a growing problem for law enforcement around the country because the parts are easy to obtain and the guns take limited expertise to build. In Southern California, federal authorities say one-third of all the firearms seized are ghost guns.

California has among the strictest gun laws in the country, but they are based on traditional firearms that are made by manufacturers and labeled so ownership can be traced.

“Congress and state legislatures enact all these crimes about gun registration but now the gun industry is creating a way to just bypass the entire thing by creating a mechanism to manufacture weapons yourself,” Villanueva said.

It’s legal to purchase gun kits and assemble them at home. That method allows the purchaser, sometimes a minor or other person prohibited from owning firearms, to avoid background checks required to purchase ready-made guns from licensed dealers.

Thomas Groneman, a detective sergeant with the Suffolk County Police Department in New York, said his agency built their own Glock-replica handgun from parts they ordered online as an experiment earlier this year.

“It was ridiculously easy to do it,” he said. “It’s scary because anybody — convicted felons, people with psychological issues — can order it online.”

In 2017, a Northern California gunman built his own rifles — despite a court order prohibiting him from having guns — and killed his wife and four others in a rampage.

While hobbyists have long been able to use spare parts to create a firearm, modern technology has made it far easier to build a deadly weapon.

Adam Winkler, a gun policy expert and professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, said that means more criminals will use them and it will be more difficult for police to solve crimes.

“Anytime you can trace a gun, you have a little bit more information,” he said. “How did this gun get here? Who sold it, who was the gunmaker, who was the first person they sold it to and what happened?”

Police don’t yet know where and when Berhow got the handgun he used to shoot students at Saugus High School in the Los Angeles suburb of Santa Clarita. As the school day was starting on Nov. 14, he pulled the gun from his backpack in an open-air quad and in 16 seconds shot five students at random, police said.

Berhow counted his rounds, saving the last bullet for himself, investigators said. He died from a head wound the next day.

Anne Muehlberger, 15, and Dominic Blackwell, 14, were killed. The other three students were hospitalized and the last of them went home earlier this week.

Berhow’s father was an avid hunter who died two years ago. He had six registered guns, but officials found several other unregistered firearms in the family home after the shooting and are working to determine their history.

The sheriff said Berhow’s motive remains a mystery, even after investigators searched his home and interviewed 45 people. Berhow’s mother had no idea of her son’s plans, Villanueva said.

Authorities said Berhow had shown no signs of violence and didn’t appear to be linked to any ideology or terrorist group. He ran cross country, was a Boy Scout and had a girlfriend.

The sheriff’s department is working with federal authorities to unlock Berhow’s cellphone, Villanueva said.

Stefanie Dazio, The Associated Press

California mass shooting

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Red Deer Remand Centre
Red Deer Remand Centre up to 22 COVID cases

Eighteen inmates and four remand centre staff areactive COVID cases

Christine Cornelius, department manager at Parkland Nurseries and Garden Centre, prepares seed racks at the Red Deer County shop. (By SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)
Central Alberta gardeners already buying seeds to prepare for spring

Potatoes and carrots popular choices for backyard gardens

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced 16 additional deaths Thursday. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
No easing of Alberta’s COVID-19 measures Thursday, 678 new COVID-19 cases

The province also hit 1,500 COVID-19 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic

Red Deer’s newest Waskasoo Park trail offers some bird’s-eye views of the city. It runs along the Highland Green escarpment, between Howarth Street Close and 60th Street. More information is available on reddeer.ca. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).
PHOTO: New Red Deer trail offers hikers a bird’s-eye view

It links Howarth Street Close with 60th Street

Gov. Gen. Julie Payette delivers the throne speech in the Senate chamber in Ottawa on Sept. 23, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Gov. Gen. Julie Payette resigns

OTTAWA — Gov. Gen. Julie Payette is resigning. The news comes as… Continue reading

Former Alberta Premier Rachel Notley shakes hands with Joel Ward, former Red Deer College President and CEO, as Notley announces that the college is on the path to grant degrees. Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan says university status is not a necessary condition for offering degrees. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Future of Red Deer University increasingly uncertain

MLA’s college update says RDC more like SAIT and NAIT than a university

Rode
University of Saskatchewan Huskies recognize DeMale’s talent

Joel DeMale has the resume to be one of the top linebackers… Continue reading

Lucas Berg, left, with the backpacks filled with essential items he donated to the Red Deer Mustard Seed Jan. 19, 2021. (Photo submitted)
Central Alberta teenager donates filled 20 backpacks to Red Deer Mustard Seed

Lucas Berg, 14, of Ponoka County says he ‘just wants to help people’

Francesca Paceri, a registered pharmacist technician, carefully fills a needle with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 mRNA vaccine at a clinic in Toronto on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020. A director at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association believes provinces should set targets for vaccinating inmates in provincial jails — something most jurisdictions have yet to do. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Some provinces yet to say when jail inmates to be vaccinated against COVID-19

A director at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association believes provinces should set… Continue reading

A pumpjack works at a well head on an oil and gas installation near Cremona, Alta. Central Alberta counties are struggling to cover millions in unpaid taxes from oil and gas companies. (File photo by The Canadian Press)
Premier Scott Moe warns Regina city council about anti-energy company motion

REGINA — Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe is warning Regina city council there… Continue reading

(Black Press media file photo)
Manitoba government not collecting overpayments to doctors, auditor general says

WINNIPEG — Manitoba’s auditor general says the provincial government is not retrieving… Continue reading

A Government of Canada sign sits in front of a Library and Archives Canada building next to Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday Nov. 25, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Federal review of Access to Information law to take another year amid impatience

OTTAWA — It will likely be another year before a federal review… Continue reading

A man wears a protective face mask to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as he walks past the emergency department of the Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver Wednesday, November 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
COVID cases in Ont., Que. hold steady, while feds warn severe illness is on the rise

Federal officials say COVID-19 case counts in Canada seem to be on… Continue reading

Black bear cubs Athena and Jordan look on from their enclosure at the North Island Wildlife Recovery Association in Errington, B.C., on July 8, 2015. Conservation Officer Bryce Casavant won the hearts of animal lovers when he opted not to shoot the baby bears in July after their mother was destroyed for repeatedly raiding homes near Port Hardy, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Supreme Court won’t review ruling in favour of officer who refused to euthanize bears

OTTAWA — The Supreme Court of Canada will not review a lower-court… Continue reading

Most Read