[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Constitution Subcommittee, chaired a hearing today, “Stop Gun Violence: Ghost Guns.” During his opening remarks, Blumenthal showed a jig, the device used to convert a frame or receiver into a functional firearm, and a finished plastic pistol frame.
“There is nothing ghost-like about ‘ghost’ guns. They look like guns, they shoot like guns, they kill like guns. They are guns – except under federal law. They are becoming the preferred instruments for criminals and violent extremists – the fastest growing gun violence menace in the nation,” Blumenthal said in his opening remarks.
“Behind me are two pictures of guns. One is a standard gun. One is a ‘ghost’ gun. I challenge you to tell the difference between them.”
“Last May, 60 Minutes reported that at least 38 states and the District of Columbia have seen criminal cases involving ‘ghost’ guns, including mass shootings, police shootouts, gang busts, terrorism and white supremacist extremism. In Connecticut, police have recently seized ‘ghost’ guns in narcotics investigations, traffic stops, and home invasions. In Hartford in recent years, police have seized roughly 10 ‘ghost’ guns per year and just last fall, police arrested a suspect in possession of a ‘ghost’ gun in connection with a shooting.”
Today, Blumenthal and U.S. Representative David Cicilline (D-RI) introduced the Untraceable Firearms Act to permanently include the core building blocks of “ghost” guns – unfinished frames and receivers – in the definition of “firearm” under federal law. In doing so, online and other gun kit manufacturers and distributors selling frames and receivers that can “readily” be converted into fully functional components would be required to comply with the same federal regulations that govern the production and distribution of completed firearms.
This includes a requirement that sellers have a manufacturer’s license and put a serial number on the frame or receiver included in each kit, and that purchasers undergo a background check. The bill also incorporates the Undetectable Firearms Modernization Act, which would prohibit firearms that can be easily modified to be pass through metal detectors undetected.
The full text of Blumenthal’s opening remarks is copied below.
The Subcommittee on the Constitution will come to order. I want to thank my colleagues for attending. I know it’s a busy day and thanks particularly to the Ranking Member, Senator Cruz, for being here. I know you're in the midst of a Rules Committee markup.
Two weeks ago the Subcommittee had its first hearing on constitutional and commonsense steps to prevent gun violence, focusing on Extreme Risk Order, “red flag” statutes.
We're here this morning after a weekend of hundreds of deaths and injuries in 72 hours across the country to explore another step to prevent gun violence: restrictions on the deadly proliferation of “ghost” guns.
At President Biden’s direction, the Department of Justice and ATF have issued a proposed rule to close the “ghost” gun loophole and stop the spread of these deadly firearms. This step is historic, it's commendable, it's critical, but the rule must be made permanent. And until it is made irreversible with legislative action it could always be reversed by another president, which is why we're holding this hearing today, and why I am reintroducing the Untraceable Firearms Act with Representative Cicilline of Rhode Island on the House side to close this loophole once and for all.
There is nothing ghost-like about “ghost” guns. They look like guns, they shoot like guns, they kill like guns. They are guns – except under federal law. They are becoming the preferred instruments for criminals and violent extremists – the fastest growing gun violence menace in the nation. Only under current federal ATF regulation is the statutory definition treating them not like guns.
Behind me are two pictures of guns. One is a standard gun. One is a “ghost” gun. I challenge you to tell the difference between them.
A “ghost” gun is, in fact, fully functional as a firearm. It can be made at home using do-it-yourself gun making kits or a 3D printer.
This frame, in a so-called jig was made by a 3D printer. It can be made by anyone drilling holes to make it functional, and then parts can be bought in a gun store or elsewhere.
It becomes a firearm capable of killing, injuring, and doing as much damage as any firearm bought in a store, except it has no serial number. It is untraceable and often undetectable. The kinds of kits that produce that firearm contain an “unfinished” frame, or receiver, the key building block regulated under federal law and normally subject to background checks and serial number requirements.
Unfinished is really a smoke screen. “Ghost” guns are intentionally designed, marketed and sold to require as little technical expertise, time, and effort as possible. To assemble all one has to do is to finish this core part by drilling a few additional holes. Some sellers even supply the exact drill bits as part of their kit alongside the rest of the components needed to make a functional firearm. It is purposefully that easy.
Because the frames and receivers in these kits are “unfinished,” none of the normal federal gun laws apply. No background checks, no licensing, no serial numbers, nothing. And since these kits are unregulated, anyone can purchase them. Minors, convicted felons, anti-government extremists, violent white supremacists, foreign terrorists. Fair game for all of them. No checks, no regulation.
They are, in fact, fast becoming the weapon of choice, costing as little as a few hundred dollars and taking an hour to assemble with YouTube tutorials.
The number of “ghost” guns is surging: the number seized, the number used in crimes, the number manufactured all are skyrocketing. And at this rate, they will make a mockery of all other commonsense gun safety steps. They will render meaningless background checks and other commonsense regulation that now applies to make America safer.
Last March, news outlets started reporting that the do it yourself “ghost” gun kits were, “flying off the shelves” and that manufacturers were, “reporting widespread back orders and shipping delays due to a pandemic-buying surge.”
We have no really reliable metrics about these “ghost” guns because they have no serial numbers, they're unregulated, and there's no reliable count on how many are manufactured and sold. The most reliable metric we have concerning the number of “ghost” guns in our communities is the number recovered by law enforcement. These numbers represent just a snapshot, but they are staggering. And the trend is alarming. Right here in D.C., “ghost” gun recoveries skyrocketed from 116 in 2019 to over 280 in 2020. And the story is the same in almost every other jurisdiction. We're going to hear more about that trend from Attorney General Shapiro and Commissioner Harrison in just a few minutes.
Last May, 60 Minutes reported that at least 38 states and the District of Columbia have seen criminal cases involving “ghost” guns, including mass shootings, police shootouts, gang busts, terrorism and white supremacist extremism. In Connecticut, police have recently seized “ghost” guns in narcotics investigations, traffic stops and home invasions. In Hartford in recent years, police have seized roughly 10 “ghost” guns per year and just last fall, police arrested a suspect in possession of a “ghost” gun in connection with a shooting in [Hartford].
Guns without a serial number recovered at the scene of a crime are untraceable. Without a serial number law enforcement can't trace that gun to a seller or shooter. “Ghost” guns make criminal investigations difficult and if there are no other leads, impossible to solve. As a result, those criminals are never apprehended, let alone prosecuted or convicted.
One last staggering statistic. From January 1, 2016 through March 4, 2021, ATF attempted to trace 23,946 privately manufactured firearms, “ghost” guns. Out of those, nearly 24,000 attempts, only 151 could be completed. That's less than 1 percent. That could mean, very simply, that 24,000 murders, assaults, armed robberies and other crimes go unsolved.
There is no reason, none, to treat “ghost” guns differently than any other gun. They look like a gun, they shoot like a gun, they kill like a gun. They should be treated as guns, and I invite both sides of the aisle, my colleagues on both sides, to support the Untraceable Firearms Act to close this loophole permanently. I now turn to the Ranking Member.