Sen. Chuck Schumer is calling on the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) to crack down on “ghost guns.”
“I write to direct your immediate attention to a disturbing phenomenon of unmarked, unregistered and therefore untraceable firearms proliferating throughout the country,” says Schumer in a recent letter to Attorney General William Barr and Acting ATF Director Regina Lombardo.
“These so-called ‘ghost guns’ pose a danger to public safety as they have the potential to end up in the hands of convicted criminals, domestic abusers, minors, and other individuals otherwise prohibited from purchasing handguns under existing federal law,” he continues.
Calling it a “loophole,” the Democratic senator from New York wants the agencies to regulate “ghost guns,” what are in reality gun parts (and kits and 80 percent lowers), as firearms under the law. In other words, all the same rules that apply to firearm possession, transfer, sale, purchase, etc. would also apply to gun parts.
Specifically, Schumer is directing the ATF and DOJ to take the following steps:
- Amend the definition of “firearm frame or receiver” in 27 C.F.R. section 478.11 such that it applies to any part of a firearm which provides housing for the trigger group, including any such part (1) that is designed, intended, or marketed to be used in an assembled, operable firearm; or (2) that, without the expenditure of substantial time and effort, can be converted for use in an assembled, operable firearm.
- Provide all available data on the frequency with which federal authorities are encountering these so-called ghost guns and efforts on the part of your respective agencies to collaborate with state and local law enforcement within 30 days. Should this information not be readily available, explain why and describe strategies on how to improve collaboration, monitoring and data collection.
The attack on gun parts is no different than the attack on black rifles or magazines of a certain capacity or ammo of a particular type when one thinks about it. Politicians come up with a fear-inducing name for a certain class of weapons, ammo or accessory, in this case, “ghost guns,” and claim that for all intents and purposes, it’s an existential threat to humanity — regardless of what the Constitution and the facts and the data actually say.
Clearly it’s effective as there have been (Clinton-era AWB) and currently are, in some states, prohibitions on “assault weapons” and “high-capacity magazines” and “armor-piercing bullets.” The question is will gun parts be next?
At the state level, the usual suspects are making headway: California, Connecticut, New Jersey. California requires homemade firearms to be registered with the state, and by 2024 will require all “firearm precursor parts” to be sold exclusively through an FFL. Connecticut banned “undetectable” guns last year. And New Jersey also prohibited guns or parts that are or can become “untraceable” in 2018.
More states, New York, Pennsylvania, Hawaii, will likely follow suit in the near future. Whether or not the Trump administration takes on the matter remains to be seen. While it may seem unlikely at the moment, particularly during an election year, it’s not out of the realm of possibility… remember bump stocks (which were at one point a “gun part” per ATF opinion letters but are now regulated as a machine gun)?
Whatever happens, putting all this focus and attention on hardware is a distraction from the underlying problem — people. That is to say, the perpetrators of violence. Until we find an intelligent and effective way to handle troubled people, there will always be violence regardless of what gun laws are on the books.