On the same day that the U.S. Supreme Court voted to allow new regulations on ghost guns to go into effect, Connecticut’s Democratic Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy unveiled new federal legislation that would ban the weapons.
Blumenthal gathered in Hartford on Tuesday with city officials and community leaders to introduce the Ghost Gun and Untraceable Firearms Act, just days after three people were shot and killed in the city.
Ghost guns are unregistered, untraceable weapons produced by unlicensed manufacturers that can be purchased online or in-person and assembled anywhere with no background checks. These guns can be produced by kits or through 3D printed parts that have no serial number or identifying mark to indicate its manufacturer.
“There is no reason for any law-abiding citizen to have a ghost gun,” said Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin. “They exist only to evade detection and to evade the law. … This is not an abstract issue. This is not a theoretical threat. These guns are being used for violent crimes in this community and across our state.”
Bronin said a significant portion of these guns come from the states of Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. He encouraged leaders in those states to support the federal legislation, stressing that the problem of ghost guns is a national issue.
“The awful, stark truth about ghost guns — they look like a gun, they shoot like a gun, they kill like a gun. They ought to be regulated as guns,” said Blumenthal. “The other awful truth about ghost guns: They are growing exponentially. If you ask me what is the biggest emerging threat in gun violence, it’s ghost guns.”
“This legislation basically requires, any time a frame or receiver of any kind is sold, the cards have to be serial numbered, there have to be background checks on the number, the manufacturer has to be licensed, and anybody who possesses this kind of unserialized and untraceable weapon is violating the law.”
Blumenthal said he will work to gain bipartisan support on this bill once congress returns from recess, despite the challenges facing such a contentious issue.
“I am very, very passionately going to work to get bipartisan support,” Blumenthal said. “There ought to be no political controversy about a ghost gun ban with law enforcement supporting it, with common sense supporting it, and with gun owners also hopefully supporting it.”
Hartford Police Chief Jason Thody and Director of the Greater Hartford Youth Leadership Academy Eddie Brown spoke about how it would bring change to the city and improve the lives of its residents.
“As an investigative tool, … we have to be able to trace these firearms when they are used in a crime, when we find them in places they don’t belong, when they’re used to do things that you shouldn’t do with a firearm,” said Thody. “That tracing is what helps us close some of these cases and find out who’s supplying illegal guns to people that will do violent acts in the city. That’s a huge investigative tool for us that we lose when you’re talking about a ghost gun.”
Brown urged people to take proactive steps to prevent violence instead of calling for change only after tragic events.
“Attention does tend to focus on the issue of gun violence when catastrophic events befall our communities,” Brown said. “These are complicated problems, not curable with sound bites. It’s what happens when the cameras go away that really matters.”
Connecticut has taken steps to slow the spread of ghost guns. In March, Attorney General William Tong filed a civil lawsuit against four out-of-state manufacturers that were shipping ghost gun parts into Connecticut, and in June, Gov. Ned Lamont signed legislation that would upgrade the state’s 2019 ban on ghost guns to include those assembled prior to the ban’s enactment. These guns must be registered with the state by Jan. 1.
Supreme Court allows Biden regulations, but lawsuit continues
In April 2022, President Joe Biden announced a plan to curtail the sale and distribution of ghost guns without the help of congress.
The plan aims to change and expand federal law’s definition of a “firearm” under the 1968 Gun Control Act to include unassembled parts that can be purchased and quickly assembled into a working firearm and to require that guns and gun kits come equipped with licensed serial numbers and be distributed only by licensed manufacturers and sellers. The rule also requires that background checks be conducted before the sale of these weapons.
The Biden plan was challenged in the Supreme Court by a Texas district judge who ruled that the administration had exceeded its authority under the Gun Control Act, ruling that definition of a firearm “does not cover weapon parts, or aggregations of weapon parts, regardless of whether the parts may be readily assembled into something that may fire a projectile.”
However, the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, issued a ruling on Tuesday that grants the Biden administration’s request to reinstate the rule pending further legal challenges. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Amy Coney Barrett sided with the court’s three liberal justices on the decision.
“I am pleased that the Supreme Court has reinstated the Biden Administration’s ghost gun rule, but this ruling is merely a temporary measure,” Blumenthal said in a statement shortly after the court’s decision. “The ongoing litigation underscores the urgent need for Congress to pass strong legislation banning ghost guns once and for all. Regulating ghost guns is a common-sense public safety measure.”
According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll on Tuesday, 70% of Americans support legislation that requires ghost guns to have serial numbers and be created by licensed manufacturers.
In 2020, seven ghost guns were seized in Hartford. That number grew to 58 in 2022. So far this year, 24 ghost guns have been seized in the city.