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Gun shop owner: Teen likely had help building ‘ghost gun’ in Phoenix school shooting

<i>KPHO/KTVK</i><br/>Charlie Bollenbaugh
Charlie Bollenbaugh


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    PHOENIX, Arizona (KPHO, KTVK) — A so-called ‘ghost gun’ — one assembled from individual parts — is at the center of Monday’s school shooting at Cesar Chavez High School.

Police are looking for the weapon that a 16-year-old brought to school and reportedly sold to another student. Police say the buyer, a 15-year-old boy, paid with fake money. When the older student confronted him about it, the younger student shot him.

“It’s my understanding [ghost guns] are kind of kit-based guns,” said Sgt. Ann Justus with the Phoenix Police Department.

Charlie Bollenbaugh, the owner of Strapt Armory in Phoenix, says those kits come with mostly just a frame. “About 80% of the work is done for you. However, some of the most important millwork is left blank, so it’s just essentially a slab of metal that’s unfinished,” he said.

The gun used Monday was a Poly 80. Those kits don’t even come with the parts needed for the slide, barrel and trigger assembly. Typically the only people who buy those from Strapt are older hobbyists — people who have the means and skill necessary for all the metalwork involved.

“To make a full-functioning gun, I don’t see how a 16-year-old can go about doing that without some assistance from somebody else,” he said. “I could be wrong on this, but I’m assuming that gun was probably already completed when the 16-year-old received it.”

The Phoenix Police Department hasn’t ruled that possibility out. “We’re going to continue to do interviews if we can find out, ya know, who helped him purchase the parts to make this gun if that’s the case if any other guns have been made,” Justus said.

The department’s Crime Gun Intelligence Squad says the use of ghost guns has started to rise over the past couple of years. In 2020, PPD impounded 30 such guns. In just the first six months of 2021, they impounded 32.

“[The squad] is aware of these ghost guns, and they’re doing what they can to combat the problem,” Justus said.

Bollenbaugh says no matter how the gun got put together, there were a lot of bad decisions made leading up to Monday’s shooting.

The 16-year-old victim in the shooting is still recovering. Both he and the younger student will be facing charges, including weapons violations.

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