Lori Lightfoot

What Are ‘Ghost Guns', And Why Are They Now Banned in Illinois?

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Wednesday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law House Bill 4383, a bill that bans so-called "ghost guns" across the state.

Illinois is the first Midwest state to pass such legislation.

The new law ensures that all firearms are serialized, which helps allow law enforcement to better trace firearms used in crimes.

“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.

According to a press release from the Governor's office, ghost guns cannot be traced by conventional means and can be created on a 3-D printer, leaving no record of their ownership.

So what exactly are "ghost guns", how are they made, and why did Illinois ban them? Here's what to know.

What are 'Ghost Guns'?

"Ghost guns" are unregulated, unserialized firearms that are assembled by individuals from kits purchased online. The parts can be purchased without background checks and don't have serial numbers, which makes them harder to trace.

The guns are homemade, and are assembled by individuals rather than licensed manufacturers.

"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.

According to gun violence prevention organization Everytown for Gun Safety, "ghost guns" are "unserialized, untraceable, and its building blocks are acquired without a background check."

“We are seeing these unserialized 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," Pritzker said in a press release.

So far 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. And, according to a report, Chicago police confiscated 455 ghost guns in 2021.

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.

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.

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