Democratic senators introduce bill to ban 'ghost' guns amid pandemic

Democratic senators introduce bill to ban 'ghost' guns amid pandemic
© Bonnie Cash

Senate Democrats introduced a bill banning untraceable “ghost” guns Thursday amid concerns that the coronavirus pandemic is fueling a spike in demand for the weapons.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) led a group of 15 senators in introducing the Untraceable Firearms Act, which would cover both the ghost guns, their components like unfinished frames and receivers and gun-making kits. The legislation would also require that online kit manufacturers and distributors have a manufacturer’s license, put a serial number on the kits’ frame or receiver and conduct background checks on purchasers.

Blumenthal said in a statement the legislation was urgent in light of reports that demand for the weapons, which can be made using kits or by 3D printing, is rising during the coronavirus outbreak.

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“This pandemic is spurring a deeply disturbing demand in untraceable weapons,” said Blumenthal. “Congress must act urgently to stop these homemade ‘ghost guns’ before they spur the next horrifying wave of gun violence.”

“Currently, anyone with access to the internet can order a gun-making kit or use 3D-printing technology to build their own assault weapon, pistol, or shotgun, circumventing identification, licensing, and background check requirements. These untraceable homemade guns are just as deadly as guns already subject to these same requirements,” he added. 

Sometimes referred to as “80 percent guns” because they are not manufactured to the level necessary to be legally classified as firearms, the ghost guns do not have serial numbers, can be sold by unlicensed dealers and can be purchased without a background check.

The legislation is endorsed by Everytown For Gun Safety and Giffords, two of the nation’s highest-profile gun control groups.

“Ghost guns are an existential threat to public safety,” said Peter Ambler, Giffords executive director. “These do-it-yourself guns are untraceable, making it easier for people who should not own a firearm to obtain one and more difficult for law enforcement officials to do their jobs. 

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Democrats have been clamoring to pass gun control legislation since they took the House in 2018, though the Republican Senate has stymied any bills the lower chamber has passed. 

However, Sen. John CornynJohn CornynGOP senators urge Trump not to restrict guest worker visas Castro, Warren, Harris to speak at Texas Democratic virtual convention Democratic unity starts to crack in coronavirus liability reform fight MORE (R-Texas), a vociferous gun rights defender, said he may not oppose background checks for ghost guns. 

“I guess you can look at it that you’re buying an assembled gun or an unassembled gun,” Cornyn told Politico, which was the first to report on the bill. “To me, the same standard makes sense.”