Preventing Ghosts | Kyle Kim
The Biden administration announced on Monday, April 11, that it had issued a final rule to combat the spread of "ghost guns," or untraceable firearms without official serial numbers. With all that’s going on, both domestically and internationally, it may seem strange to see the presidential administration spend vital time and energy on an issue that you might have never even heard of. However, ghost guns are an incredibly dangerous and pressing issue that deserves this gravity despite surrounding circumstances. This raises the question: what exactly are ghost guns, and why do we even need to regulate them at all?
Simply put, ghost guns are privately built and untraceable firearms. They can be put together using kits or other parts, as well as 3D-printed. These firearms, unlike conventional guns, do not carry serial numbers that can be traced. Moreover, these kits are available for purchase by anyone, meaning that a background check is not required to purchase one. This means these kits can be acquired by anyone, including prohibited purchasers, such as domestic abusers, gun traffickers, and even minors. Ghost guns are intended by design to circumvent all firearms prohibitions, making it a popular weapon among those who are legally forbidden from purchasing firearms.
This issue is also unexpectedly prevalent. In fact, in 2021, law enforcement seized around 20,000 suspected ghost guns in criminal investigations. Every day, these kits and firearms are sold at gun fairs and on the internet across the country, undermining all of the life-saving restrictions that state legislatures have worked so hard to enact. In other words, the availability of ghost gun parts and kits has created a gaping, and potentially dangerous, loophole in existing enacted gun laws. It also shows no signs of stopping, making this legislation all the more important.
One reason why ghost guns have become so widely available is that they are not considered guns until they're put together. Predictably, it’s also difficult for the government to trace firearms that are unserialized, at least until crimes are committed with such weapons. Gun tracing is a tool in which law enforcement agencies can determine the sequence of ownership of a firearm, and it is an important practice for preventing gun violence. Without this tracing, gun traffickers may buy an endless number of components and kits and assemble them into unserialized guns that can then be readily diverted into the illicit market, leaving law enforcement with no method of tracing their origins. This makes ghost guns perfect tools for crimes, with multiple school shootings occurring across the country with such weaponry.
On a more positive note, some states have already passed legislation combating ghost guns including California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Nevada, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Washington. Some states have also passed policies regarding these unauthorized firearms, including our hometown of San Diego, as well as San Francisco and Philadelphia.
All in all, it is clear that ghost guns require legislative attention to minimize and prevent their drastic effects. While gun violence is an issue that plagues the United States in a variety of forms, taking one step in the right direction is incredibly significant.