Delaware Democratic lawmakers take aim at ‘ghost guns’

March 12, 2021 GMT

DOVER, Del. (AP) — Democratic lawmakers in Delaware have reintroduced legislation to outlaw homemade “ghost guns” that can’t be traced by law enforcement agents because they don’t have serial numbers or are fashioned from parts created with 3D printers.

The measure introduced Thursday is similar to a bill that failed to get a floor vote last year. The legislation is supported by Democratic Gov. John Carney, who first proposed such a law in 2019.

“This important ghost gun legislation is thoughtful and reasonable and is intended to keep our communities safe. That’s the minimum standard our constituents expect us to meet,” Carney said in a prepared statement.

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In introducing the bill, Democratic lawmakers asserted, without evidence, that sales of untraceable firearm components “skyrocketed” in 2020. They point to the website of the Giffords Law Center, which advocates for more restriction on gun ownership. The website includes a video in which the narrator acknowledges, “There’s no way to know just how many ghost guns are in circulation.”

The bill makes it a felony to possess or manufacture an untraceable, undetectable or covert firearm.

An undetectable firearm is defined as one constructed entirely of nonmetal substances, or with major components removed, so it is invisible to walk-through metal detectors. The definition also applies to firearms that include those major components but would not generate an image that accurately depicts the shape of the component.

A covert firearm is defined as one built in a shape that does not resemble a gun.

An untraceable firearm is defined as one for which the sale or distribution chain cannot be traced by law enforcement officials.

The bill also criminalizes the sale, transport or possession of an unfinished firearm frame or receiver with no serial number. The legislation also makes it a crime to manufacture or distribute a firearm made with a 3D printer or to distribute instructions on how to manufacture firearm components with a 3D printer.

Anyone who already possesses an unfinished firearm frame or receiver — a component of a gun that houses the firing mechanism — with no serial number would have 90 days to comply with the law.

Under federal law, only the receiver is considered a firearm. But the law allows individuals to bypass criminal background checks required for firearm purchases by buying unfinished receivers, which do not have serial numbers and can be made fully functional with additional machine or tool work.

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Gun control advocates say the federal allows individuals, including those prohibited from possessing guns, to avoid background checks.

“Ghost guns, which can be easily obtained online and built at home, are a terrifying way to bypass law enforcement, especially for people who are prohibited from possessing a firearm,” said the bill’s chief sponsor, House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst, a Democrat from Bear.

Democratic lawmakers said that, according to the Giffords center, eight states and the District of Columbia have enacted similar laws.