Press Release

Giffords Launches Ghost Guns Initiative to Bring Greater Attention to the Alarming Rise of Dangerous, Untraceable, Unlicensed Weapons

 As Giffords draws attention to the problem, bill introduced in the Senate to prohibit the manufacture and sale of firearms without serial numbers

May 14, 2020Giffords, the gun violence prevention group started by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, launched a new ghost guns initiative to bring national attention to the alarming rise in the use of dangerous, untraceable do-it-yourself weapons. These guns make it harder for law enforcement to conduct criminal investigations and easier for individuals who could not pass a background check to obtain a firearm. The new effort coincides with the introduction of Senator Richard Blumenthal’s Untraceable Firearms Act, which prohibits the manufacture and sale of firearms without serial numbers.

A centerpiece of the initiative is the first episode in a new explainer video series from Giffords, “Closing Loopholes: The Truth About Guns,” which describes ghost guns, why they are so dangerous, and why we need a federal solution to reduce the threat. In the coming weeks, Giffords will continue releasing material that gives experts, policymakers, and the public a deeper understanding on the existential threat ghost guns pose.

Peter Ambler, Giffords Executive Director

“Ghost guns are moving from work benches and basements into the hands of people who shouldn’t be able to get a firearm. During a time of surging gun sales, it’s imperative that we pay more attention to ghost guns. Because these aren’t just tools for hobbyists. These do-it-yourself guns are untraceable, making it easier for people who are not legally allowed to own a firearm to obtain one and more difficult for law enforcement officers to do their jobs. Giffords is proud to lead the effort to raise the alarm about the proliferation of this dangerous technology and back federal legislation that will ensure ghost guns are regulated in the same way as traditionally manufactured guns.”

Ghost guns can be built at home without a manufacturer’s license by anyone with access to common household tools. 3D-printed guns are a type of ghost gun, but less common than DIY kits. Ghost gun websites sell unfinished versions of the gun component that holds the firing mechanism, called a receiver or a frame, which can be easily completed using simple tools available at any hardware store. The websites sell kits that include the tools necessary to complete the lower receiver, as well as all the other parts required to assemble fully functional firearms, including handguns and AR-15-style assault rifles.

As the popularity of ghost guns continue to increase, they are showing up at more and more crime scenes. Today in some areas of California as many as 40% of crime guns recovered by ATF agents are ghost guns. Criminals have also used ghost guns to cause a number of high-profile tragedies in California and Washington, and to ambush law enforcement.

Currently, there is no federal law in place to deal with this threat. The Untraceable Firearms Act—introduced today by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and last year by Representative David Cicilline (D-RI)—would prohibit the manufacture and sale of firearms without serial numbers, require any person or business engaged in the business of selling firearm kits and unfinished receivers to obtain a dealer’s license and conduct background checks on purchasers, and mandate that a person who runs a business putting together firearms or finishing receivers must obtain a manufacturer’s license and put serial numbers on firearms before offering them for sale to consumers.

“We have to balance the right of hobbyists to build their own guns with the needs of law enforcement to solve crimes,” wrote David Chipman, Former ATF Special Agent and Giffords Senior Policy Advisor in a blog post on the issue. “This means passing federal legislation limiting the sale of receivers to those that have been completed, marked, and serialized. If making this relatively small change to our laws will help law enforcement do its job more effectively and keep our communities safe, it should be a no-brainer.”

The initiative from Giffords on ghost guns is providing a range of resources. Starting today you can find: