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Ghost Guns Are a Weapon Of Choice For Those Who Can’t Pass a Background Check, New Everytown Research Finds — ATF Has Failed To Regulate Despite Growing Danger

Today, Senators Blumenthal and Murphy Introduced the Untraceable Firearms Act of 2020 to Address the Threat of Ghost Guns

Online Ghost Gun Sellers Report Surging Sales Due to COVID-19 Related Panic-Buying

In More than Half of Federal Prosecutions Involving Ghost Guns Between 2010-20, the Defendant Was Prohibited from Owning Guns and Would Not Have Passed a Background Check 

NEW YORK — Today, Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund (“Everytown Support Fund”) released “Untraceable: The Rising Specter of Ghost Guns,” a new report highlighting the proliferation and danger of ghost guns––untraceable, do-it-yourself firearms made from parts available without a background check. The Everytown Support Fund examined a sample of 80 online ghost gun part sellers and more than 100 federal prosecutions involving ghost guns, finding that ghost guns are easier to buy than ever before and are frequently possessed by those prohibited from owning firearms, tied to criminal activity, and used by white supremacists, convicted felons, and minors. 

Today, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) also introduced the Untraceable Firearms Act of 2020, a bill that would address the rise of ghost guns. The bill’s 15 cosponsors also include Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). 

“Ghost guns have become the weapon of choice for violent criminals and dangerous extremists because they’re completely untraceable and available to anyone, no background check and no questions asked,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety. “A gun is a gun, so we thank Senator Blumenthal for introducing legislation to apply the same rules to ghost guns as other potentially deadly firearms.”

“We already knew that ghost guns were flying off the shelves due to pandemic panic-buying — and now we know the disturbing truth about who is buying them,” said Nick Suplina, managing director of law and policy at Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund. “Ghost gun sellers like to hide behind the pretense that their customers are just tinkerers, but it’s clear from our research that the truth is much darker. It’s time for ATF to take clear and decisive action to keep guns out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them.” 

The Everytown Support Fund reviewed 114 federal prosecutions from 2010 to April 2020 involving ghost guns, revealing 2,513 ghost guns connected to criminal activity.

  • In nearly half of the prosecutions reviewed, the defendants were prohibited from possessing any firearm and would not have passed a background check if one were required. 
  • The federal cases also show that ghost guns are frequently used by criminal organizations and drug traffickers to facilitate their crimes. 
    • More than 1,300 ghost guns connected to criminal activity were used or sold by criminal enterprises to facilitate crimes including gun trafficking, robbery, drug trafficking, terrorism, and murder.
  • The cases also included troubling examples of white supremacists obtaining ghost guns and openly discussing the benefit of ghost guns.

The rise of ghost guns is one of the country’s fastest-growing gun safety problems, with recoveries by law enforcement increasing significantly in communities across the country. Since December 2019, Everytown for Gun Safety has called on the ATF to use its existing power to regulate ghost guns, and is rallying its supporters to urge ATF to act. In April, Members of the House Judiciary Committee also sent a letter seeking answers regarding the measures the ATF has undertaken to address the surge in ghost guns sales during the COVID-19 pandemic. In February, Leader Schumer called on the ATF to take immediate action to address the proliferation of ghost guns in a letter he sent to ATF leadership. 

Across the country, states like Connecticut and New Jersey have taken action to quell the threat of ghost guns — but a broad action from the ATF or a bill like the Untraceable Firearms Act of 2020 would provide a national solution.

The report makes six policy recommendations to address the threat of ghost guns: 

  • ATF should adopt a new definition of “firearm frame or receiver” that would reassert regulation over ghost guns — like the proposed new definition formally submitted to ATF by Everytown in December 2019.
  • If ATF fails to act, Congress should enact legislation to overrule ATF’s interpretation and clarify that “unfinished” frames and receivers are firearms, prohibit the manufacture, sale, transfer, purchase, and possession of a gun without a serial number, and require ATF to collect data and publicly report on the availability and recovery of ghost guns.
  • States should pass laws to prohibit the purchase and sale of ghost guns and the critical parts to manufacture them, mandate that firearms that are manufactured at home are serialized, and require the licensure of individuals who want to manufacture firearms.
  • In states with laws that already include frames and receivers in the definition of firearm, state attorneys general should issue legal opinions to clarify the law to ensure that law enforcement can treat these parts as firearms.
  • ATF and state and local law enforcement should collect data and publicly report on the availability and use of ghost guns.
  • Companies that facilitate sales (e.g., credit cards, internet service providers, shipping) of the building blocks of ghost guns should take proactive measures to prevent the spread of ghost guns.