Federal Law Allows Prohibited Purchasers of Firearms to Buy Ghost Guns
HARRISBURG—Attorney General Josh Shapiro led a coalition of 18 states in issuing a letter calling on U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to close the loophole in the ATF’s interpretation of the federal Gun Control Act that allows criminals, domestic abusers, and other prohibited purchasers of firearms to evade common-sense gun laws and purchase 80 percent receivers, which can be easily assembled into unserialized and untraceable ghost guns.
“Ghost guns are quickly becoming the weapon of choice for criminals and fueling the gun violence epidemic. These DIY gun kits should be subject to the same background checks and qualifications as fully functioning firearms to prevent criminals who are not legally able to purchase or possess guns from getting their hands on these deadly, untraceable weapons,” said Attorney General Shapiro.
The PA Office of Attorney General has spoken to administration officials and consistently brought up concerns over this loophole in the federal Gun Control Act during those discussions. Attorney General Shapiro has also personally spoken to President Biden about the issue of ghost guns.
Ghost guns typically start as “80 percent receivers” that are often sold in kits without background checks. Currently, ATF’s incorrect interpretation allows 80 percent receiver kits to be sold online and at gun shows throughout the country without background checks. They are also not required to use serial numbers, making them untraceable by law enforcement after being assembled.
The Attorneys General are calling on U.S. Attorney General Garland to issue new regulations that clarify the Gun Control Act includes 80 percent receivers in the category of firearms that require background checks.
In Pennsylvania, the seizure of ghost guns during raids and investigations by law enforcement has significantly increased. To date, 99 ghost guns in 2019, 250 in 2020, and more than 80 to date in 2021 have been recovered in Philadelphia. In response to this increase in ghost gun recoveries, Attorney General Shapiro issued a legal opinion in 2019, stating that these receivers must be treated the same as fully-functioning firearms under Pennsylvania law. In March 2021, he entered into an agreement with the largest gun show promoter in the Commonwealth, banning the sale of ghost guns at their shows until 80 percent receiver kits are subject to background checks.
The letter was issued by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro who was joined by the attorneys general of Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawai’i, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.
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