Federal prosecutors have indicted an Oregon man for allegedly running the state’s largest “ghost gun” workshop, authorities say, a case shows how homemade firearms can fuel crime.
A federal grand jury on Thursday indicted Tyler Ray Harnden for allegedly supplying counterfeit oxycodone pills containing fentanyl to people with substance abuse disorders in exchange for illegal purchases of firearms.
The charges stem from a raid on Harnden’s residence in Salem in February. There, officers from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and local law enforcement found dozens of homemade firearm components, three drill presses and other manufacturing equipment.
Authorities allege Harnden was leading a ghost gun squad, part of a broader issue of DIY guns increasingly being used by criminal organizations and right-wing extremists to evade gun laws . In response to their proliferation at crime scenes, federal authorities are now looking to close a loophole used to manufacture ghost guns.
US Department of Justice
“Ghost guns are homemade firearms without serial numbers assembled from kits or materials sold without background checks, making them easily acquired by criminals who would otherwise not be allowed to own a firearm. fire and nearly impossible for law enforcement to track,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Oregon said in a news release.
During the raid, federal agents seized two pistols, three completed ghost pistols, thousands of rounds and 15 loaded high-capacity magazines, in addition to manufacturing materials and approximately 200 counterfeit oxycodone pills.
Harnden, 29, was charged with possession with intent to distribute fentanyl and heroin, distribution of fentanyl, possession of a firearm in pursuit of a felony drug trafficking and illegal possession of a firearm as a convicted felon. Prosecutors allege Harnden obtained weapons using straw buyers, someone who buys a gun with the intention of passing it on to someone who is ineligible to own a gun because of a previous criminal conviction.
Additionally, prosecutors allege Harnden tried to convince a relative to sell firearms stored in his home to generate money for his jail expense account. Earlier this week, federal agents and local law enforcement executed a search warrant at the relative’s home, seizing four gun safes and 63 additional firearms believed to have belonged to Harnden.
It is not known if Harnden is represented by an attorney.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) said in May last year that more than 23,000 firearms without serial numbers had been recovered by law enforcement between 2016 and 2020. These include crime scenes of 325 homicides or attempted homicides.
According to Everytown for Gun Safety, people who are not legally allowed to own firearms can still purchase components used to quickly build a ghost gun without background checks. According to the gun safety group, the frame and receivers used to assemble the guns lack subtle features that allow them to fail federal regulations.
Attorney General Merrick Garland announced last year that the DOJ had initiated a process to update the federal definition of a “firearm” and related exhibits for the first time since 1968. The department is also seeking to update updated the definition of “frame or receiver,” which he said would close a loophole used by ghost weapon makers.
“Criminals and others prohibited from possessing a firearm should not be able to exploit a loophole to evade background checks and detection by law enforcement,” Garland said in a statement. press last year.
Newsweek contacted the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Oregon and the U.S. Department of Justice.