Washington, D.C., April 24, 2020 - Today, Brady applauds the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary for calling for much needed answers from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) regarding an uptick in sales of ghost gun kits and parts during the coronavirus pandemic. Ghost guns, due to their unregulated and untraceable nature present a unique threat to public safety and to law enforcement. Reports of increasing sales of ghost gun kits and parts therefore warrant swift and close consideration by all law enforcement bodies, particularly during this period of uncertainty caused by coronavirus.
Brady President Kris Brown explained:
“While we watched as reports of increased gun sales from licensed dealers across the country were validated by the FBI’s background check data from the last month, we know little about ghost gun kit sales, which are not subject to the same safety protections as a purchase from a licensed dealer.
Ghost guns blatantly circumvent existing gun safety laws and regulations. They undermine many of the core and hard-won laws at both the state and federal level that have helped to keep our communities safe from gun violence.
Purchases from a licensed dealer are subject to a federal background check and potential buyers are subject to scrutiny from dealers for signs of incompetency or concern, but there are no such guardrails when purchasing ghost gun kits. Any person, such as those prohibited under federal law from buying a firearm legally, including minors, can therefore purchase a kit and construct a fully-functioning gun. Gun laws are public safety laws. There is a clear and established reason why we require safety measures such as background checks. One-click shopping for firearms online flies in the face of that precedent and threatens law enforcement and public safety. We need answers on how the ATF and other agencies at the Department of Justice are addressing this very real concern.”
What is a Ghost Gun?
Ghost guns are specifically designed to avoid all gun laws, regulations, and oversight. Ghost guns are firearms typically constructed from component parts that do not meet the federal definition of a firearm. Frames or receivers, which house the essential parts of the firing mechanism, are regulated as “firearms” under federal law. When a frame or receiver is “unfinished,” even by a small fraction, it is not a “firearm,” and is therefore entirely unregulated and unserialized.
The growing popularity of “80-percent receiver,” kits, frames and receivers that are below 80 percent completion and are sold in kits that include the needed parts to assemble a working ghost gun, has further exacerbated the ghost gun problem. The process of converting these parts into a ghost gun involves just a few steps and can be completed without any specialized skill. These kits often include the “jig” that identifies where to drill holes to finish the frame, and often even include drill bits. They are readily available online where there are no restrictions on who buys a kit or how many they purchase. In short, anyone - including prohibited purchasers, domestic abusers, those likely to cause harm to themselves or others, firearms traffickers, and minors - can anonymously purchase a kit and easily assemble a gun without any background check or any other safety measure. These guns are usable and untraceable, and are often marketed as such, making them weapons of choice for criminal activity.
The Committee has Specifically Asked:
1. Does the ATF, or any other component of the Department of Justice (DOJ), collect data on sales of ghost gun kits? If so, please outline how and from where such data is acquired. Also, please provide all available data concerning sales of ghost gun kits and unfinished frames and receivers from the last five years, broken down by state.
2. Does the ATF collect data on the number of ghost guns recovered as part of criminal investigations that are submitted for tracing, but are unable to be traced because they do not contain a serial number of other identifying marks? If so, please provide this data for the last five years, broken down by state.
3. Has the ATF, or any other component of DOJ, seen any increase, since February 2020, in the sale of ghost gun kits or unfinished frames and receivers, or in the recovery of ghost guns? If so, what are those increases, how was this information obtained, and does the DOJ plan to continue to track these statistics?
4. What actions is the ATF taking to ensure that ghost guns, ghost gun kits, and unfinished frames and receivers are not obtained by prohibited purchasers, including minors, during the COVID-19 pandemic?
5. Has the ATF provided or distributed information, guidelines, or rules to sellers of ghost gun kits or unfinished frames and receivers, in response to COVID-19? If so, please provide a copy of such materials and identify when they were distributed and the mechanism of distribution.
6. Has the ATF, or any other component of the DOJ, provided any communications or recommendations to Federal Firearms Licensees (FFLs) to cease transferring ghost gun kits or unfinished frames and receivers amid the COVID-19 pandemic? If yes, please provide a copy of all such communications or recommendations and identify when and how they were sent or otherwise communicated to FFLs.
7. Please provide any internal ATF or DOJ component memoranda, white papers, or other documents addressing the lethality and risk of ghost guns, the recovery of ghost guns as part of criminal investigations, and/or whether the ATF or any other component of DOJ can regulate them as firearms, or otherwise. In your response, please include any determination letters that the ATF, or any other component of DOJ, has provided to sellers of unfinished frames or receivers.
Brady has one powerful mission — to unite all Americans against gun violence. We work across Congress, the courts, and our communities with over 90 grassroots chapters, bringing together young and old, red and blue, and every shade of color to find common ground in common sense. In the spirit of our namesakes Jim and Sarah Brady, we have fought for over 45 years to take action, not sides, and we will not stop until this epidemic ends. It’s in our hands.