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Schumer urges DOJ and ATF to act now to tackle 'untraceable and undetectable ghost guns'

By Press Release

Press release:

Saying Americans are clamoring for action on the issue of gun violence, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer said Monday that under current law, the Department of Justice (DOJ) in concert with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) can do something—right now—to tackle the rising threat of untraceable and undetectable firearms known as "ghost guns."

“Amid the pain of another senseless shooting in this country, Americans are clamoring for the feds to do something, and so I’m calling for DOJ and ATF to use their existing authorities to act,” Schumer said.

“The lights are flashing red on the issue of ghost guns and the rising threat posed by these totally unregulated, available-to-anyone, no-background-check-required weapons. That is why we are demanding the feds take action now, before these easy-to-use assembly kits result in another foreseeable and preventable tragedy.” 

Schumer explained that "ghost guns" are sold in pieces or kits and come without background checks, serial numbers, or anything else that the current law demands of legally purchased firearms—despite the fact that only a few simple steps are required to turn these unfinished pieces into fully functional weapons. 

Schumer said New York has already seen ghost guns used in crimes, and that Attorney General Tish James has taken strong action to prevent their flow here, but that using existing authority to close the federal loophole allowing these weapons to proliferate across the country is a commonsense action that the feds can and must take to make New Yorkers safer, right now.

In September 2019, Attorney General Tish James sent cease and desist letters to companies behind a number of websites selling incomplete weaponry pieces—ghost gun kits—to New Yorkers that could be easily assembled into illegal assault weapons. In July 2020, Attorney General James announced that all the companies behind the sale of these firearms or firearms components had complied with her cease and desist letters and ended the sale of these weapons to New Yorkers. 

But Schumer, today, said this hard work is for naught unless the feds stop the unfettered flow of these kits across the country.

“In some states, it is harder to buy cold medicine than it is a ghost gun assembly kit,” Schumer said. “The feds know it, the people who are building these kits know it, and the public should not have to be threatened by it.”

“Ghost guns pose a grave threat to communities across this country,” said Attorney General Letitia James. “We know that these untraceable and undetectable weapons can cause the same immense destruction and harm as traditional firearms, yet they are not subject to the same regulations.

"My office has successfully shut down companies that provide access to these weapons and taken action to regulate them, but far more is needed to protect our families and our children. I thank Senator Schumer for taking the stand that is desperately needed to protect New Yorkers and all Americans.”

Last summer, Nassau County law enforcement officials recovered 22 ghost guns, along with thousands of rounds of ammunition and narcotics and bomb-making equipment, in a crime bust on Long Island.

In February of last year, Schumer wrote to then-Attorney General William P. Barr and Acting Director Regina Lombardo urging the DOJ and the ATF to take action to stem the tide of unmarked, unregistered, and untraceable firearms that continue to proliferate the country.

Schumer said "ghost guns" continue to pose a danger to public safety and have the potential to end up in the hands of convicted criminals, domestic abusers, minors and other individuals that are otherwise prohibited from purchasing handguns under existing federal law.

Today, Schumer said Biden Administration officials, including Attorney General Garland, should do what the Trump Administration failed to do and take prompt action to rectify this regulatory failure and protect Americans lives.

Schumer requested that DOJ and ATF immediately take the following steps to address this eminent threat:

  1. Amend the definition of "firearm frame or receiver" in 27 C.F.R. section 4 78.11 such that it applies to any part of a firearm which provides housing for the trigger group, including any such part (1) that is designed, intended, or marketed to be used in an assembled, operable firearm; or (2) that, without the expenditure of substantial time and effort, can be converted for use in an assembled, operable firearm.
  2. Provide all available data on the frequency with which federal authorities are encountering these so-called ghost guns and efforts on the part of your respective agencies to collaborate with state and local law enforcement within 30 days. Should this information not be readily available, explain why and describe strategies on how to improve collaboration, monitoring and data collection.

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