Ghost guns are unserialized, unregistered and untraceable firearms that are bought in pieces and can be assembled at home. They are a worrisome addition to the growing arsenal of killing machines that plague our country. They are legal in 40 states. As crime rates soar, the quick spread and easy access of ghost guns are raising alarms.
Ghost guns are unlike any other dangerous item sold in America. They can be bought online like an Amazon purchase. Once delivered to the buyer’s home, they can be assembled in the family room like an item from Ikea. And if one needs guidance with the assembly, online YouTube and other videos help navigate the construction process.
Ghost guns begin with unfinished frames or receivers – the piece of the firearm that contains the firing mechanism, and the part of a gun that is regulated under federal law. When a frame is “unfinished,” it is unregulated. And since it has no serial number, the ghost gun is wholly untraceable. But once ghost guns are assembled, they look, feel and function like a traditional gun, and are just as deadly.
Last week, a Maryland law prohibiting the sale, receipt and transfer of an unfinished frame or receiver that does not have a serial number by the manufacturer went into effect. That day, the city of Baltimore sued the largest manufacturer of ghost guns, Polymer 80, as part of an attempt to fight the public health crisis of gun violence. Similar suits have been filed by the District of Columbia and the city of Los Angeles. But despite the public uproar over increasing gun violence and frustration over the proliferation of untraceable ghost guns, Congress has not acted.
Although we favor a ban on ghost guns, we cannot understand why they aren’t, at the very least, subject to regulation and registration. And why is it that the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) does not consider ghost guns a firearm? Purchasers are supposed to show identification to establish proper age when they buy cigarettes and alcohol. Every automobile is issued a vehicle identification number, and drivers must be licensed. But none of that applies to ghost guns. There are no age limits on who can buy them, there are no limitations on how many can be bought and they are sold in interlocking pieces like Legos, in order to facilitate easy assembly and use.
The fundamental problem with ghost guns is that many purchasers buy them to evade law enforcement or because they cannot otherwise buy firearms legally. That includes underage buyers, buyers with criminal convictions, gun traffickers and others we don’t want walking around with a deadly arsenal. While we understand that regulating ghost guns will not end gun violence, restricting access and insisting on only allowing sales of traceable firearms to those of age who pass a background check would be a positive step in the development of sane gun laws to protect our lives.