Leonard Greene: It’s not just LEGOs and bikes. Kids Assemble Guns These Days |
(ATTENTION EDITORS: 1 photo accompanies this column. FILE NAME: OP-ED-GREENE-COLUMN-NY.jpg)
I was 14 when I got my first 10-speed bike. My mother gave it to me for Christmas.
Four months later, the bike was stolen from a drugstore in Brooklyn where I had picked up a prescription for a friend.
My mom was devastated for me, but not enough to replace the bike. I had to do it myself.
With no work and no money, I built my own bike with spare parts and donations, including an Italian race frame from the friend I got the prescription for.
It was orange. Other than that it was the best bike ever, faster and lighter than the one my mom bought.
I sometimes think of this bike when I consider the creative juices of some teenagers today. They are just as motivated, if not more so.
Only now they make weapons.
When a teenage girl, Angellyh Yambo, was killed in the Bronx earlier this month, the stray bullet came from a gun someone had assembled.
Cops said 17-year-old Jeremiah Ryan brandished a “ghost gun” when he unloaded half a dozen bullets half a block from Angelyh near the South Bronx campus of University Heights High School.
Two other teenagers were injured in the shooting.
In January, police said 16-year-old Julian Oliveros was shot by another teenager with a phantom gun in New Rochelle.
Tommy Rivera, 16, has been charged with second degree murder and two counts of second degree criminal possession of a weapon, both felonies.
Cops said the semi-automatic 9mm handgun used in the shooting was constructed from parts readily available on the internet.
A ghost gun – otherwise known as a gun – is just as deadly as any weapon that rolls off an assembly line. But they are even more problematic because they have no license, no serial number and it is very difficult for the police to find them.
“Ghost guns are worse because they operate outside the law,” said U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres, DN.Y., who is sponsoring legislation in Congress targeting companies operating the loophole. “You can’t buy a normal gun online without a serial number and background check. There has been a gargantuan growth in the number of ghost guns.
This month, President Joe Biden announced that his administration was enacting regulations that would require serial numbers on ghost weapon parts and background checks on buyers of ghost weapon kits. The rule will designate ghost weapon kits as firearms under federal law.
But Torres said that wasn’t enough because the next administration could simply change the rule and reopen the loophole.
I told Torres about the bike I built as a kid, and he asked me how long it took to put it together. I told him it took me a few weeks, including the time it took to put the parts together.
Ghost guns, he said, are as easy to assemble as LEGOs. Weapons makers can use 3D printers to make plastic or polymer parts in about 12 hours from blueprints that can be easily downloaded online.
“Any kid, anywhere can buy gun components online without a background check and put those components into a fully functional gun,” Torres said. “I never thought I would live in a world where guns can be printed or guns can be made at home. It’s as surreal as it is shocking.”
My rebuilt orange bike got me through most of my teenage years, from after-school football practice to church choir rehearsal on weekends. It transported me to almost every corner of Brooklyn and parts of Queens and Manhattan.
What I didn’t tell Ritchie was that the rebuilt bike was also stolen. It was another teenage setback, but at least it didn’t involve a dangerous weapon falling into the wrong hands.