Tips for Thought

Addressing Untraceable Firearms and Public Safety

The Biden administration has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate a regulation aimed at regulating “ghost guns,” which are privately made firearms that are difficult to trace and lack serial numbers. The regulation, issued by the Justice Department, bans the sale of “buy build shoot” kits for ghost guns without background checks and serial numbers. 

However, a Texas-based federal judge invalidated the rule, leading to the administration’s appeal to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The administration argues that allowing the judge’s ruling to stand could lead to an influx of untraceable ghost guns into communities. 

What are they?

“Ghost guns” are essentially DIY firearms that individuals can purchase in the form of kits and assemble themselves, often without needing a background check or any serial numbers. These guns are usually sold online or through various channels that do not require the same regulations as traditional firearm sales.

The term “ghost gun” comes from the fact that these firearms lack any identifying marks or serial numbers, making them difficult to trace by law enforcement. As a result, they can be attractive to individuals seeking to evade gun regulations or acquire firearms without leaving a paper trail.
Ghost gun kits typically include all the components and parts required to build a fully functioning firearm. Buyers can quickly assemble them with basic tools and little technical knowledge. Some of these kits even claim to be “80% complete,” meaning the final assembly work required by the purchaser is minimal, making them appealing to those without extensive gunsmithing skills.

Due to the absence of serial numbers and manufacturer identification, ghost guns can pose significant challenges for law enforcement agencies. When used in crimes, they make it harder to trace the firearm back to its owner or point of origin, hindering investigations and making it more challenging to hold individuals accountable for their actions.

The rise of ghost guns has been a matter of concern for policymakers and law enforcement agencies, as they have become associated with increasing incidents of gun violence and illegal firearms trade. To address this issue, various states and the federal government have been considering regulations to restrict or control the sale and possession of ghost guns. However, the problem remains contentious, with advocates arguing for Second Amendment rights and opponents pushing for increased firearm regulation to address public safety concerns.

Increase in Crimes

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives updated its regulations in 2022 to classify ghost gun kits as firearms. The Solicitor General argued that increased crimes involving ghost guns necessitate regulation. Texas residents and gun rights groups brought the challenge to the ATF regulations. The Supreme Court will review the case, and a decision is expected by August 4th.

How do ghost guns contribute to an increase in crime?

There are several factors:

  • Ghost guns lack serial numbers and other identifying marks, making them difficult to trace back to their original owners or manufacturers. This anonymity can encourage criminals to use these firearms for illegal activities, knowing that their involvement in a crime might be harder to detect.
  • Ghost gun kits are often readily available online and can be assembled by individuals without background checks or registration. This accessibility makes it easier for individuals who might be legally prohibited from obtaining firearms through traditional channels to acquire deadly weapons.
  • Since ghost guns are not considered firearms under some laws, they can bypass certain regulations that apply to traditionally manufactured guns. This loophole allows people to acquire firearms without following the usual legal procedures, enabling individuals to evade background checks or other restrictions.
  • Ghost guns can attract individuals legally barred from purchasing firearms due to their criminal history, mental health issues, or other disqualifying factors. These individuals might see ghost guns as an opportunity to obtain a weapon outside the scrutiny of the law.
  • In some cases, ghost guns can be modified or converted into fully automatic weapons, which are heavily regulated or banned in many jurisdictions. Criminals could use these modified firearms for more dangerous and deadly attacks.
  • Ghost guns can be used in illegal firearms trafficking, as their unregulated nature allows them to move through the black market more easily. Criminal networks might see an opportunity to profit from selling untraceable firearms to individuals who cannot legally purchase firearms through regular channels.

While it’s essential to note that not all ghost gun owners or users engage in criminal activity, the lack of regulation and traceability can create opportunities for misuse by individuals with criminal intent. Consequently, authorities and policymakers are concerned about the potential risks associated with the increasing popularity of ghost guns. They seek ways to address these challenges while balancing Second Amendment rights and public safety.

A Balanced Approach that Considers Public Safety

Here are some potential steps that could be taken to address the issue:

  • The federal government could enact comprehensive regulations specifically targeting ghost guns. This might include requiring background checks for all firearm parts or kit purchases, mandating serial numbers on all firearms components, and enforcing stricter reporting requirements for lost or stolen firearms.
  • States could implement their regulations on ghost guns, considering the unique challenges they face. This approach allows states to respond to the issue based on their circumstances and political considerations.
  • The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) could increase its efforts to monitor and regulate the production, sale, and possession of ghost guns. Adequate funding and resources should be provided to ensure effective oversight and enforcement.
  • Federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies should work together to combat the illegal use of ghost guns. Sharing intelligence and coordinating efforts can help track and disrupt criminal networks involved in ghost gun trafficking.
  • Educating the public about the risks associated with ghost guns and the importance of responsible firearm ownership can help reduce the appeal of these weapons to potential criminals.
  • Engaging communities in efforts to reduce gun violence and promote responsible gun ownership can be effective. Programs that focus on providing safe storage options for firearms and offering alternatives to violence can contribute to safer communities.
  • Online platforms facilitating the sale of ghost gun kits should cooperate with law enforcement and adopt measures to prevent illegal sales and transactions.

Striking the right balance between Second Amendment rights and public safety is challenging, but creating safer communities while respecting individual freedoms is essential.