Pa. AG faces legal challenge over ‘ghost gun’ policy

Justin Henry//December 23, 2019

Pa. AG faces legal challenge over ‘ghost gun’ policy

Justin Henry//December 23, 2019

Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced law enforcement officials will treat 80% receivers, so-called “ghost guns” which can be manufactured into working firearms by users, as guns under state law, a legal opinion now being challenged by gun vendors. PHOTO/JUSTIN HENRY

Gun vendor Landmark Firearms LLC of Newville joined a coalition of firearm vendors filing a lawsuit challenging a legal opinion from the state Attorney General’s office that would treat so-called ghost guns—weapons that can be built by users to make working firearms—as guns under state law.

The suit seeks an injunction against Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner Robert Evanchick after Attorney General Josh Shapiro directed state police to consider partially manufactured guns, known as 80% receivers, as firearms under state law. The directive followed reports that use of 80% receivers in crimes was increasing.

When the suit was announced, Shapiro offered a terse response on Twitter: “Bring it! We’ll see you in court.”

Shapiro’s action means the state can prosecute anyone found possessing gun frames if they don’t have proper firearm credentials. Ghost guns, so called because they fall under the radar of law enforcement because they bear no serial number, are to be considered firearms if they are capable of firing a projectile.

“My office is taking the initial step of clarifying, through my official legal opinion, that under Pennsylvania law, 80% receivers are firearms and can be treated, regulated and enforced as such,” Shapiro said at a news conference last week. “The proliferation of these untraceable weapons strikes at the heart of our public safety, hindering law enforcement’s ability to protect our communities.”

Landmark Firearms, U.S. Rifle LLC of Dublin, New Hampshire; and Polymer80 of Dayton, Nevada—all vendors of partially manufactured receivers—are represented by Joshua Prince of Prince Law Offices, based in Bechtelsville, Berks County, with offices across central Pennsylvania.

The suit alleges Shapiro’s opinion, which immediately went into effect after its Monday announcement, does not give fair notice to consumers and goes against state protections of Second Amendment rights.

Landmark Firearms could not be initially reached for comment, but Prince released an official statement.

“As the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has declared, our state Constitution protects against the arbitrary exercise of unnecessary and uncontrolled discretionary power, and only the Pennsylvania General Assembly has the power to make law,” Prince said in an official statement.