On Saturday, at the scene of a shooting in northwest Washington, D.C. that killed three people and wounded three more, police recovered a 9mm Glock ghost gun. While authorities are still trying to confirm it was the weapon used in the deadly shooting, it is part of a disturbing trend in D.C. and in cities and towns across the country, where unserialized ghost guns bought and sold without background checks are showing up at more and more crime scenes.
In D.C. alone, the number of ghost guns seized has gone from just three in 2017 to over 300 last year. This threat to public safety is not limited to D.C. Just last weekend, the Attorneys General of Pennsylvania and New Jersey announced charges were being filed against three people for multiple crimes related to illegally manufacturing, possessing, transporting, and selling firearms between the two states. Thirty percent of guns recovered by ATF in California were unserialized, according to a 2019 report. One local official in California cited an even higher recovery rate at the local level — 41 percent of their cases coming from ghost guns. Similarly, from Philadelphia to Syracuse to Denver, ghost gun recoveries are increasing in cities, and law enforcement is speaking out about this growing problem.
“In my 20 years working on gun safety, ghost guns are the most dangerous new threat I’ve ever seen, and it’s not even close,” said Everytown president John Feinblatt. “Untraceable, unserialized ghost guns are not a threat on the horizon, they’re a threat that’s already here. We need a whole-of-government response to crack down on ghost gun manufacturers and criminals using ghost guns to evade background checks, and that starts with the ATF finalizing its proposed ghost gun rule.”
“Unserialized, untraceable ghost guns are one of the most dangerous and fastest growing threats we’re seeing across the country and they must be stopped,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action. “We’re grateful to the Biden-Harris administration for tackling this threat head on with it’s strong proposed regulation and hope to see it finalized swiftly. We cannot allow the proliferation of ghost guns to continue unabated.”
Everytown has been on the forefront of the fight against ghost guns. Everytown supporters drove nearly 100,000 public comments in support of the ATF’s proposed rule that would update the definitions of “firearm” and “frame or receiver” to cover kits and components easily assembled into untraceable ghost guns. In December of 2019, Everytown filed a petition for rulemaking, urging ATF to address the rising threat posed by ghost guns. In August 2020, after ATF failed to undertake the rulemaking requested by the petition, Everytown, joined by the cities of Syracuse, NY, San Jose, CA, Chicago, IL, and Columbia, SC, sued ATF to compel the agency to correct its misinterpretation of federal law that had allowed the ghost gun threat to emerge. This year, Everytown applauded as the Biden-Harris administration rolled out a slate of strong executive actions to curb gun violence. In May 2021, pursuant to President Joe Biden’s executive action, ATF announced a proposed rule that would effectively end the proliferation of ghost guns. President Biden also mentioned ghost guns as a major contributing factor to the rise in gun violence in his CNN Town Hall last month.