PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — U.S. Sen. Jack Reed and Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha are urging Congress to crackdown on unregistered and untraceable firearms — more commonly referred to as “ghost guns.”
Ghost guns are typically defined as firearms without serial numbers or identifying markings that indicate their manufacturer. The illegal weapons are usually made out of advanced plastics designed to evade metal detectors and are crafted using kits and components often sold online.
The firearms are rising in popularity among those who would otherwise fail a background check to legally purchase a traditional firearm through a licensed dealer.
That’s why Reed and Neronha are pushing for stricter laws to get ghost guns off the streets.
“Thanks to some companies that have exploited a loophole, violent and dangerous people can purchase untraceable ghost guns with the click of a mouse and assemble them at home like a box of Legos,” Reed said. “Anyone can get a weapon without any control, which I think is an outcome we must seriously prevent.”
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) updated the definition of a firearm last year to include certain components found in ghost gun kits.
The decision was initially challenged by gun advocates, but the United States Supreme Court ruled that the ATF could temporarily continue to enforce the new regulations pending decisions by the lower courts.
But Reed wants Congress to do more, and is urging his colleagues to take another look at the “Untraceable Firearms Act,” which would require those who make and sell ghost gun kits and components to comply with federal regulations.
“It would mandate that unfinished frame and receivers, which make up the core of a ghost gun, be added to the definition of a firearm in federal law,” he explained.
Reed said the legislation would also require sellers to have a manufacturer’s license and include a serial number on the frame or receiver.
“It’s past time to close federal loopholes and exorcise the ghost gun threat,” Reed said. “I will continue working to get ghost guns off the streets and codify the ATF’s authority to help keep our neighborhoods safe.”
Rhode Island is just one of 13 states where it is illegal to own a ghost gun. Neronha said his office has worked vigorously to prosecute those caught with ghost guns across the state.
In Neronha’s latest annual statewide Gun Crimes Report, he noted that there were 66 cases last year involving ghost guns.
“That’s a high number when you consider that, in any given year, we are either charging or disposing of around 800 gun cases,” he explained.
He echoed Reed’s call for the regulation of ghost guns nationwide, according to Every Town for Gun Safety.
“Here in Rhode Island, we have put in the work to pass common sense gun laws that help keep our communities safe,” Neronha said. “But with the prevalence of ghost guns and ambiguity at the federal level, criminals can circumvent the system, and we are back to square one.”
“It’s time to get tougher on ghost guns with stronger federal regulations,” he added.