Shapiro: ‘Ghost guns’ to be prosecuted as standard firearms under state law

Justin Henry//December 16, 2019

Shapiro: ‘Ghost guns’ to be prosecuted as standard firearms under state law

Justin Henry//December 16, 2019

State Attorney General Josh Shapiro, left, addresses reporters at Monday’s press conference, covering his office’s new interpretation of state gun regulations. PHOTO/JUSTIN HENRY

State officials announced Monday that so-called “ghost guns” — untraceable firearms typically assembled by the user after purchase — will be classified as standard firearms under Pennsylvania state law.

That means the state can prosecute cases involving individuals illegally possessing “80% receivers,” a gun frame commonly used to make unserialized firearms without license or registration with the state, according to Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro. As the state has strengthened its grip around firearm regulation, Shapiro said, illicit gun buyers have turned to this legal “loophole” to acquire illicit weaponry.

“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 Monday press conference. “The proliferation of these untraceable weapons strikes at the heart of our public safety, hindering law enforcement’s ability to protect our communities.”

The Office of the Attorney General will collaborate with Pennsylvania state troopers on an implementation strategy for this new interpretation of state gun laws to include the regulation of so-called “ghost guns,” so they don’t wind up in the hands of anyone prohibited from purchasing a gun, Gov. Tom Wolf said Monday.

“If we don’t recognize that 80% receivers are firearms under Pennsylvania law, we are creating a giant loophole that allows criminals to skirt our agreed-upon laws that keep people safe,” Gov. Wolf said Monday. “Changing this classification will not hurt legal, responsible gun owners. This change will stop criminals, terrorists and other people who can’t pass a background check from acquiring a gun through a loophole.”

Eighty-percent receivers that can be quickly manufactured by the purchaser into a live gun are sold at gun shows, brick and mortar vendors and online. Felons were found purchasing duffel bags full of these kits at a recent Oaks Gun Show in York and Harrisburg, and more than 100 ghost guns have been recovered that started as 80% receivers, according to Shapiro.

Officials at the Oaks Gun Show did not respond to initial requests for comment.