Lawmakers must fight the growing hazard of ghost guns

It can be frustrating to see violence increase in our city. But that doesn’t mean we give up. We must fight harder than ever. Illinois should outlaw ghost guns.

SHARE Lawmakers must fight the growing hazard of ghost guns
“Ghost guns” on display at the headquarters of the San Francisco Police Department in 2019.

“Ghost guns” on display at the headquarters of the San Francisco Police Department in 2019.

Haven Daley/AP

It’s bad enough that gun violence numbers are skyrocketing within Chicago, in Illinois and across the country.

Even worse, a growing threat could elevate these rates even higher: ghost guns, easy-to-assemble firearms that come packaged in separate parts, are now just a few clicks away. These lethal do-it-yourself kits, which can also be put together via a 3-D printer, include all the parts of a gun but without serial numbers.

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Think about it — pretty much anyone can order a ghost gun kit, then assemble a deadly weapon with just a few hours of easy work. As Gabby Giffords puts it, “If you can build IKEA furniture, you can build a ghost gun.” No background check required.

Ghost guns make up a growing percentage of gun violence across the country, which has claimed more than nine thousand lives so far this year. Chicago police confiscated 455 ghost guns in 2021 (more than twice as many as in New York City), and more than 40% of guns recovered by California ATF officers in 2020 were ghost guns.

Incredibly, the kits are not legally considered firearms because they don’t include specific components, and users aren’t required to register them with the federal government.

That’s why I’m calling on members of the Illinois General Assembly to support state Rep. Kam Buckner’s effort to make Illinois safer. Before they adjourn on April 8, legislators should vote to support this bold proposal, which would outlaw the transfer, purchase, manufacture, importation and possession of ghost guns; prohibit the use of 3-D printers for the manufacture and distribution of ghost gun kits; and establish a process that traces these deadly weapons by making them serialized and trackable.

HB 5731 has the support of gun violence advocates and law enforcement like the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police and Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart — and we are working to build a bold, bipartisan coalition to pass this life-saving legislation.

In the past, Illinois officials have bravely fought the scourge of gun violence by expanding background checks for all gun sales and requiring all gun dealers to be certified by the Illinois State Police. They’ve also created a stolen gun database and required state police to publish key information on crime-related firearms.

But now, Illinois is falling behind states such as New York and California when it comes to life-saving anti-violence legislation — all while guns take a record number of lives. These other states have already passed laws mandating background checks and serial numbers for all of the components in ghost gun kits. Are we going to do just this side of nothing?

It’s even more important to act responsibly because our neighboring states have such lax gun laws. The Chicago Police Department has consistently traced close to 60% of its crime guns to other states, according to a 2017 city report. To make a difference, we have to stand for what is right.

It can be frustrating to see violence increase in our city. But that doesn’t mean we give up. No, it means we must fight harder than ever. And we can do that by passing strong laws to remove ghost guns from our streets. 

Kathleen Sances is president and CEO of the Gun Violence Prevention PAC (G-PAC), the state’s leading gun violence advocacy organization.

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