Attorney General Shapiro is First Attorney General to Declare That the Building Blocks for Unserialized, Untraceable Ghost Guns Are Regulated Firearms Under State Law
Last Week, Everytown for Gun Safety Urged the ATF to Interpret A Similarly Worded Federal Law to Regulate the Building Blocks for Ghost Guns
The Shooter Who Killed Two and Injured Three in November School Shooting at Saugus High School Used a Ghost Gun
NEW YORK — Today, Everytown for Gun Safety applauded Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro and Gov. Tom Wolf for Attorney General Shapiro’s legal opinion that unfinished frames and receivers — which are used as the key building block to build “ghost guns” like the one used in last month’s deadly school shooting in California — are considered “firearms” under Pennsylvania law and should be regulated as such. The Pennsylvania State Police will use the opinion when enforcing the law and issue rules consistent with the Attorney General’s interpretation as appropriate.
“By recognizing that unfinished frames and receivers are indeed regulated firearms under Pennsylvania law, Attorney General Shapiro will help close a loophole created by federal inaction that has made ghost guns easily accessible to gun traffickers and people who are legally prohibited,” said Nick Suplina, managing director for law and policy at Everytown for Gun Safety.“Attorneys General, policymakers and leaders at all levels of government should follow the lead of Attorney General Shapiro — particularly the ATF, which already has the power to act.”
Unfinished frames and receivers are the core building blocks for untraceable ghost guns — the same type of firearm a New York Times editor assembled in a video story posted this weekend. Though these unfinished frames and receivers are created with the express and singular purpose of being quickly converted into fully-functioning firearms, they are not currently classified as firearms by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), and therefore can be purchased online — or from any other seller — without a background check. The ATF also does not require unfinished frames and receivers to have serial numbers, so the ghost guns created with these building blocks cannot be traced. The current lack of regulation and enforcement enables gun traffickers and people who are prohibited from owning firearms, like minors, convicted domestic abusers and those with violent criminal histories, to acquire all the parts necessary to build an untraceable firearm with no background check.
The ATF’s failure to regulate untraceable ghost guns has created a growing crisis that undermines state and federal gun safety laws. Last week, Everytown for Gun Safety filed a petition for rulemaking to the ATF arguing that the ATF has the power to correct its own failure and begin regulating the building blocks for ghost guns under existing federal law and without any Congressional action.
Several other states — including Florida, New Mexico, and Tennessee — have laws that would allow their attorneys general to follow Attorney General Shapiro’s lead and act to regulate the building blocks of ghost guns. Pennsylvania’s state legislature should follow Attorney General Shapiro’s lead by passing comprehensive legislation to regulate ghost guns in Pennsylvania.