This bill — known as the Ghost Guns are Guns Act — would broaden the definition of “firearm” in the federal criminal code to include any combination of parts designed and intended to convert a device into a firearm, and from which a firearm may be assembled. It’d also require background checks for firearms purchases to buyers of firearms kits. Under current law, the purchase of gun assembly kits is permitted without a background check.
- Not enactedThe President has not signed this bill
- The senate has not voted
- The house has not voted
Committee on the JudiciaryCrime, Terrorism and Homeland SecurityIntroducedFebruary 14th, 2019
- house Committees
What is House Bill H.R. 1266?
Cost of House Bill H.R. 1266
In-Depth: Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-NY) reintroduced this bill from the 115th Congress to ensure that individuals who'd be otherwise barred from purchasing firearms can't purchase gun assembly kits online under the "ghost guns" loophole. In a letter to his Congressional colleagues seeking cosponsors for this bill, he wrote:
"Currently, individuals can purchase gun assembly kits off the web without undergoing a background check. Under existing law, these gun assembly kits, which are subject to almost no regulation, are not legally considered guns because they arrive in pieces, as opposed to being a finished product. As a result, individuals who otherwise would not be able to pass a background check or would be disqualified due to other factors, can purchase these gun assembly kits and build their own 'ghost guns.' Guns assembled using these kits have garnered the title of 'ghost guns' because they often times are completely untraceable. In many instances, these firearms are assembled using a receiver that does not have a serial number, making it almost impossible for law enforcement officials to trace the gun back to its owner. Since becoming more available, “ghost guns” have been used more often in violent crimes. These easily accessible firearms pose serious safety concerns to our communities and law enforcement. In order to directly deal with the issue, the Ghost Guns Are Guns Act would change existing gun law by closing the 'ghost gun' loophole. This legislation would simply require that individuals purchasing gun assembly kits be subject to the same background checks that apply to people buying fully-assembled firearms. This is a reasonable, commonsense change that will help prevent people who would otherwise not qualify to purchase a gun from doing so."
Last Congress, Rep. Espaillat introduced this bill to close the “ghost guns” loophole which allows purchasers to avoid federal background checks by buying unassembled firearms online:
“It is a little known fact that individuals who would otherwise be barred from purchasing firearms still have the ability to purchase a gun assembly kit online. Guns assembled using these kits are called ghost guns because they are often times completely untraceable, assembled using a receiver that does not have a serial number, and are almost impossible to be tracked by law enforcement. The Ghost Guns Are Guns Act closes this loophole as these guns are more often used in violent crimes and pose serious safety concerns to our communities and law enforcement.”
Breitbart's Second Amendment columnist, AWR Hawkins, points out that assembling guns from kits is "a legal endeavor that law-abiding citizens enjoy." He also takes umbrage with Rep. Espaillat's framing of this issue, which he believes is prejudicial in that it implies "citizens are skirting the system." He also argues that there's no evidence that guns built from kits are more likely to be used in violent crimes.
The National Rifle Association (NRA), the most influential pro-gun lobbying organization in the United States, hasn’t taken a public stance on this legislation. However, it’s worth noting that: 1) the NRA was part of crafting a 1988 law making the sale of untraceable firearms illegal, and 2) the NRA’s current spokesperson, Dana Loesch, has expressed support for untraceable 3D-printed guns, calling attempts to restrict 3D gun blueprint access “as unenforceable as trying to institute bans on magazine capacity” and calling 3D-printed guns symbols of “freedom and innovation.” Loesch has further stated that, since there are already laws that unsuccessfully try to stop criminals from getting guns, it’d be impossible to control the creation of 3D-printed guns anyway.
Of Note: Under current law, people can purchase gun-assembly kits online and at stores without a screening process.
The term “ghost gun” first popped up into the political lexicon in 2014, when California Sen Kevin de Leon (D-CA) backed a proposal to regulate unserialized firearms made out of unfinished gun parts through the state Department of Justice. After repeated efforts, California adopted a series of new requirements on these homemade guns in 2016.
Other states, including New Jersey and Connecticut, have followed California’s lead on ghost guns. In June 2018, New Jersey’s attorney general sent warning letters to manufacturers of “ghost guns” and state lawmakers pursued a formal ban on the sale of firearm parts used to make untraceable homemade guns. New Jersey’s Attorney General, Gurbir Grewal, targeted companies advertising online for the sale of “unregistered and unserialized firearms — including assault weapons — constructed, at least in part, by the purchaser.”
The ghost gun issue has been brought to the forefront by the current debate over 3D-printed guns, which are becoming increasingly accessible as 3D-printing technology itself becomes cheaper and more accessible. On July 30, 2018, a federal judge temporarily delayed this future by blocking the release of controversial blueprints for 3D-printed guns — but the debate is ongoing, and the inevitable improvement and cost reduction of 3D printing may make 3D-printed ghost guns cheap, accessible, and untraceable for would-be criminals in future.
- Sponsoring Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-NY) Dear Colleague Letter
- Sponsoring Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-NY) Press Release (115th Congress)
- Breitbart (Opposed)
- Countable (Context)
- Vox (Context)
- Congressional Research Service (Context)
Summary by Lorelei Yang(Photo Credit: iStock / mailfor)