Today, a newly unsealed complaint revealed federal charges in the case of a racist extremist serving in the Ohio National Guard who was previously arrested for allegedly making terrorist threats against the Jewish students he was supposed to be protecting in his job as a security guard at Columbus Torah Academy. The defendant had allegedly posted multiple times online threatening to carry out a mass shooting, including once musing that he would join any mass shooter if they attacked a synagogue where he was working security. The recently unsealed federal complaint alleges that the man had been in possession of several ghost guns, as well as the tools to manufacture and 3D print them. Ghost guns are unserialized, untraceable homemade firearms, the building blocks of which can be obtained without a background check. The Department of Justice release on the arrest of the Ohio National Guard member can be found here.
The new federal filing contained several shocking and disturbing details that highlight the intersection of ghost guns and extremism:
- The defendant allegedly sent several racist, misogynistic, antisemitic, and violent messages over Snapchat and Discord, including musing about the possibility of joining an active shooter at the Jewish synagogue he was supposed to be protecting, saying graphic, violent death threats targeting the Jewish community.
- According to the filing, “Upon a search of the residence, multiple firearms were discovered, along with a 3D printer known to investigators as a Privately Made Firearm (PMF) “Ghost Gun” printer.” Evidence contained in the filing indicates the defendant 3D printed weapons and weapon accessories known as auto sears, that can convert semi automatic firearms into machine guns. He also allegedly admitted that he had illegally sold certain 3D printed firearms.
- After the defendant’s firearms were confiscated by local authorities in a separate incident, he allegedly sent messages indicating that he was considering firebombing the police station and killing one of the local police officers involved, going as far as to find the officer’s address and discuss killing them and their family.
Ohio has weak gun safety laws, with no restrictions to address the threat of ghost guns. This year, Governor Mike DeWine signed two new dangerous policies into law, including a bill that would allow teachers to bring firearms into learning environments with minimal training and legislation to eliminate Ohio’s permit requirement for carrying a handgun in public.
Ghost guns are one of the fastest-growing gun safety problems facing our country. Ghost guns are impossible to trace, and across the country, law enforcement officers are recovering increasing numbers of homemade, unserialized guns from people who are legally prohibited from having guns. Nearly 2,500 ghost guns were connected to criminal activity in 102 federal cases over the past decade. ATF officials recently estimated that approximately 10,000 ghost guns were recovered across the U.S. in 2019. The guns are often used in extremist attacks and there are many videos and communities on social media that allow for easy access to knowledge and information. The Biden Administration finalized a rule that will go into effect in August that would end the proliferation of untraceable ghost guns.
This arrest underscores the deadly connection and devastation that can be potentially caused by an extremist driven by hate and armed with a gun:
- In May, a white supremacist an 18 year old shot 13, killing 10, mostly Black people in the Tops Friendly Market The shooter published a racist, 180 page diatribe outlining a detailed account of his plan, motives, weapons, and inspirations before the attack.
- Late in May, a man shot six people – one fatally – during a lunch held by Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church. Law enforcement have announced the shooting was hate motivated and targeted the Taiwanese community.
- The same month, Dallas police announced that they believed three recent shootings at Asian-owned businesses in the area were connected and could be hate-motivated. The latest shooting, on May 11th, resulted in three Korean women being shot and wounded.
- In 2019, a white supremacist drove 11 hours to El Paso, where he shot and killed 23 people and wounded 23 others at a Walmart in what the Department of Justice has labeled an act of domestic terrorism.
- In 2018, an antisemitic man shot and killed 11 people and wounded six more during Shabbat morning services at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.
- In 2015, in Charleston, South Carolina, a white supremacist shot and killed nine Black parishioners – including the Senior Pastor – during Bible study at Mother Emanuel AME, the oldest African Methodist Episcopal church in the Southern United States.
Tackling armed extremism and white supremacy requires a multi-pronged approach, and a recalibration of the fabric of our country. Stopping easy access to firearms is an immediate way to address the deadliness of far right extremism. Another is for the Senate to confirm Steve Dettelbach as Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). ATF is on the front lines of the fight against armed extremists, white supremacists, and those targeting marginalized identities, and Dettelbach has decades of experience leading that fight. As U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio and as Chair of the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Advisory Subcommittee, Dettelbach has a track record of prosecuting dangerous extremists, including those targeting religious communities and houses of worship, to keep our communities safe. These charges in Ohio show why it is so critical the ATF be led by someone with Dettelbach’s expertise in tackling domestic extremism, particularly as it prepares to implement the new ghost guns rule.
More information on the tools Everytown recommends to combat domestic terrorism and armed extremism is available here.