GHOST GUNS ARE NOT SURREAL – THEY ARE DANGEROUS KILLING MACHINES by Toni Wellen, CAGV Chair Emeritus
A privately constructed firearm (also called ghost gun) is a term for a (typically) homemade firearm that lacks commercial serial numbers. If you can build IKEA furniture you can build a ghost gun, an untraceable firearm that is a huge threat to public safety.
One of the most important information law enforcement needs to solve a gun crime is the serial number on the gun, which is registered with the Department of Justice when you purchase a firearm. However, the gun guys have found a way to get around that. They are making untraceable guns, called “GHOST GUNS.” Why that name? Without a serial number law enforcement cannot find or trace the owner.
It is estimated that in California 1/3 of gun crimes are committed with ghost ATF Los Angeles Field Division reported in January 2021 that 41 percent of the division’s cases involve ghost guns.
Meet the Firearm Anyone Can Build at Home. Building a ghost gun circumvents our entire system of gun safety laws and regulations. That’s precisely why criminals, drug traffickers, and gangs are increasingly relying on them.
Lower Receivers are items that have not yet reached a stage of manufacture to be considered a firearm. Ghost guns or do-it-yourself guns are built by individuals in garages without a serial number. These firearms are built by unlicensed individuals who follow YouTube videos explaining, step-by-step instructions on how to build a fully functioning firearm, from a handgun to an assault weapon.
Ghost guns pose two primary problems. First, because the parts used to make these guns are not considered to be firearms under the current interpretation of the law, individuals can buy them without undergoing a background check via the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. This means that individuals who are prohibited from buying or possessing guns under federal law can easily evade this restriction by simply buying a kit over the Internet and making their own gun at home.
Second, because 80% receivers, the basic part purchased, are not required to have a serial number or other unique identifying information, they are completely untraceable, therefore crimes committed with theses guns cannot be solved by law enforcement.
Under current federal law, gun manufacturers and importers are required to engrave a serial number on the frame or receiver of each firearm, and gun dealers are required to conduct a background check before selling any firearm.
Law enforcement officials around the country are sounding the alarm about the dramatic increase in the recovery of ghost guns at crime scenes in their communities. ATF reported that approximately 10,000 ghost guns were recovered across the country in 2019.
If you purchase a firearm at a store, it would have a traceable serial number and the purchase would need to pass a background check under federal law. A ghost gun can circumvent all of that because it’s put together from unfinished, untraceable parts.
There are two potential approaches for banning ghost guns. First, Congress could pass legislation clarifying that unfinished receivers must be regulated in the same manner as fully finished firearms, which would require that these components be marked with serial numbers and only sold after a background check. Legislation has been introduced in Congress to enact this change at the federal level, and eight states have enacted state laws to address the problem.
Congress could limit the sale of lower receivers by changing the legal definition of a gun of ghost guns.
However, the rise of mail-order gun-building kits, which can be purchased from the privacy and safety of one’s home without a background check, has seriously undermined our laws by radically increasing the accessibility of firearms—including handguns, high-powered rifles, and even automatic weapons—to that higher-risk category of individuals prohibited from buying them.
Prosecutors Against Gun Violence (PAGV) strongly supports the amended definition of “firearm,” which would explicitly cover “a weapon parts kit that is designed to or may readily be assembled, completed, converted, or restored to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive.” Simply put, subjecting gun-building kits to the same regulations as fully assembled firearms is consistent with the plain language and intent of the Gun Control Act of 1968, which will go a long way toward preventing individuals previously convicted of a felony or domestic violence offense to purchase basically untraceable firearms.
Democrats reintroduced legislation on August 17, 2021 that would ban so-called “ghost guns,” that would restrict access to untraceable firearms without serial numbers.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) introduced the bill in the Senate along with 11 co-sponsors, while Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) introduced partner legislation in the House to clamp down on the firearms,
The legislation, dubbed the Untraceable Firearms Act, would include the portions of “ghost guns” such as unfinished frames and receivers under federal law’s definition of “firearm.”
Such a move would mandate that gun kit manufacturers and distributors who sell the pieces operate under the same regulations overseeing the production and distribution of completed firearms, including that they have a manufacturer’s license and place serial numbers on the components. Purchasers of the pieces used to create a “ghost gun” would also have to undergo a background check.
“There’s nothing ghostly about ‘ghost’ guns – they look like guns, shoot like guns, and kill like guns. Our legislation would ensure that violent extremists, domestic abusers, and foreign terrorists can’t evade background checks and other safety measures by building weapons at home instead of buying them from a store,” Blumenthal said, “Gun violence is a public health epidemic in our country. In recent years, the increased presence of ghost guns in our communities has made this problem even worse. These untraceable weapons make it harder for law enforcement to find and prosecute violent criminals,” added Cicilline. “This legislation will close the ghost gun loophole and make these weapons easier to trace. It’s just commonsense.”