Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Wednesday signed into law legislation that bans so-called “ghost guns” across Illinois, making it the first Midwest state to do so.
House Bill 4383 aims to crack down on “ghost guns,” or unserialized and privately made firearms often sold as parts for at-home assembly allowing some gun owners to circumvent background checks. It was sent to the governor’s desk by lawmakers on the last day of the 2022 Illinois legislative session in April. Proponents of the bill say ghost guns “cannot be traced by conventional means and can be created on a 3-D printer, leaving no record of their ownership.”
“The people creating, selling, and purchasing these firearms know that they’re working to circumvent common-sense gun laws that ensure guns stay out of the hands of traffickers, abusers, and convicted criminals,” Pritzker said in a statement. “We are seeing these unseralized guns being built in basements by those who should never have had access to such dangerous weapons and then used to commit heinous crimes, and it must be stopped to keep Illinoisans safe.”
The Illinois law follows a similar federal crackdown announced by President Joe Biden last month. Biden’s new “final rule” requires serialization of such kits and reclassifies them as firearms.
Here’s a look at what this means:
What are ‘Ghost Guns’?
‘Ghost guns’ are unregulated firearms that are assembled from kits purchased online. The parts can be purchased without background checks and don’t have serial numbers, which makes them harder to track.
Justice Department statistics show that nearly 24,000 ghost guns were recovered by law enforcement at crime scenes and reported to the government from 2016 to 2020. It is hard to say how many are circulating on the streets, in part because in many cases police departments don’t contact the government about the guns because they can’t be traced.
“Because ghost guns are cheaper and easier to acquire than conventional firearms, they are more accessible to young people,” Pritzker’s office said in a release.
Already this month, two teens in Illinois have been charged with possession of ghost guns, one of which was brought to a high school. Illinois State Police reported working on 28 “ghost gun” cases so far this month.
According to a report, Chicago police confiscated 455 ghost guns in 2021.
What Does President Biden’s Ghost Gun Rule do?
The rule changes the current definition of a firearm under federal law to include unfinished parts, like the frame of a handgun or the receiver of a long gun.
Now, such kits must become licensed and include serial numbers on the kits’ frame or receiver. The rule also requires firearms dealers to run background checks before they sell ghost gun kits that contain parts needed to assemble a firearm.
For years, federal officials have been sounding the alarm about an increasing black market for homemade, military-style semi-automatic rifles and handguns. As well as turning up more frequently at crime scenes, ghost guns have been increasingly encountered when federal agents buy guns in undercover operations from gang members and other criminals.