BLUE PENNSYLVANIA: DO WE HAVE A GHOST OF A CHANGE WITH FIREARM LEGISLATION?

On February 28, Malachi Matthews, a convicted felon, travelled from Philadelphia to Berks County to purchase firearms at the Morgantown Gun Show. Nineteen year old Najaye Davis, who is two years too young to own a firearm in Philadelphia, had attended the gun show the previous day, also seeking to purchase guns. By the end of their visits, both men had acquired what they had come for.

Neither man was aware that investigators from Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s office had been monitoring the purchases.

Both men were eventually arrested and charged with various illegal firearm offenses, and investigators believe that their intent was to sell these guns on Philadelphia streets at a huge profit.

But one question remains: Why weren’t the vendors responsible as well?

The answer lies in what Matthews and Davis actually purchased at the gun show: unassembled gun kits. Once these guns are properly assembled, they become fully functional firearms, with one essential benefit to the criminal: there are no traceable serial numbers on the weapons. This benefit has bestowed the dubious title of “Ghost Guns” to these firearms.

According to the Brady Plan:

  1. There are no federal restrictions on who can buy ghost gun kits or parts;

  2. There are no federal limitations on how many ghost gun kits or parts someone can buy;

  3. Ghost gun kits and parts are relatively cheap; and

  4. Ghost gun kits and parts are intentionally marketed as unregulated and untraceable to appeal to those who want to avoid background checks and/or are gun traffickers.

Currently, no Pennsylvania law exists to address the issue of ghost guns.

Under Pennsylvania law, ghost gun kits are not considered to be firearms. Anyone can purchase a gun kit in Pennsylvania without having to undergo a background check. Last year, responding to a threat to shoot up Monsignor Bonner High School, Upper Darby Police arrested an 18-year-old exchange student from Taiwan after finding a 9mm handgun that he had assembled from parts purchased on the internet.

In December, 2019, Attorney General Josh Shapiro issued a legal opinion that the 80% receivers (the foundation upon which ghost guns are built) are firearms under state law. Armed with this opinion, the state police developed a procedure to require background checks on ghost guns. In January, 2020, responding to a lawsuit from gun rights groups and manufacturers, Commonwealth Court Judge Kevin Brobson issued an injunction against the plan. The lawsuit claimed that it was tantamount to improper lawmaking without the involvement of the General Assembly or the public. With the exception of State Representative Amen Brown (HD 190, Philadelphia), the legislature has largely been silent on ghost guns and firearms in general.

AG Shapiro has recently negotiated an end to the sale of these ghost guns with the organizer of many of these gun shows – Eagle Arms Productions. Eagle Arms should be commended for its courage (Call: (610) 393-3047 Email: info@eagleshows.com).

If Eagle Arms can make such a sacrifice, our legislature can do likewise. Write or call your legislator, and ask them to amend the current laws to either classify ghost guns as firearms, or to ban them entirely. It’s a simple request, and it can save many lives.

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