Press Release

August 14, 2023
Cardin, Van Hollen Join Colleagues in Reintroducing Legislation to Protect Communities From Untraceable Ghost Guns
Loopholes in current statutes allow anyone – including felons, traffickers, & extremists – to manufacture or assemble untraceable firearms using a 3-D printer or do-it-yourself kit

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen (both D-Md.) joined Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and U.S. Representative Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.) in reintroducing the Ghost Guns and Untraceable Firearms Act, legislation to ban dangerous “ghost guns” and codify the Biden administration’s Ghost Gun Rule, which is currently threatened by a Texas federal judge’s ruling to invalidate the ghost gun regulation. While the Supreme Court recently ruled to uphold the regulation while the decision is appealed, this action is not final, highlighting the need for codification.

Currently, “ghost guns”, which are easily assembled with a 3-D printer or a do-it-yourself gun-making kit purchased from an unlicensed seller, can be obtained without passing a background check and have become the weapon of choice for criminals and extremists. Without a unique serial number, these guns are often untraceable and impede investigations by law enforcement. The bill would require online and other sellers of gun-making kits to comply with federal firearm safety regulations.

“The Biden administration took decisive action to close this dangerous ghost gun loophole, and unfortunately the courts have delayed its implementation,” said Senator Cardin. “Untraceable firearms are a growing risk in our communities facing gun violence. Congress should act quickly to permanently codify the ATF’s authority to help keep our neighborhoods safe.”

“Undetectable and untraceable firearms are a significant danger to our society. We need to get these deadly and far too easy-to-make ghost guns off our streets to keep our communities safe. This critical legislation would bring us one step closer to ending our country’s gun violence epidemic,” said Senator Van Hollen.

“Ghost guns are a major threat to public safety and law enforcement’s ability to protect our communities,” said Senator Blumenthal. “Without serial numbers and readily available for anyone to assemble, these untraceable weapons are a convenient tool for those that hope to cause harm. Our measure closes the gaping loopholes that allow domestic abusers, criminals, and terrorists to bypass background checks. A homemade gun is still a gun. Subjecting these weapons to the same safety measures and requirements will save lives.”

“Gun violence has taken far too many lives and affected countless families around our nation,” said Congressman Espaillat. “Ghost guns are propelling this crisis, as these weapons are self-assembled, untraceable, and can allow criminals to evade firearm background checks. This has presented an ever-growing challenge for law enforcement agencies, as the number of ghost guns recovered at crime scenes has increased exponentially over the past few years alone. Our bill, the Ghost Guns and Untraceable Firearms Act, would codify the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms’ (ATF’s) authority to regulate and track these deadly weapons. We cannot ignore the public health implications facing the country as a direct result of ghost guns and our bill would implement commonsense solutions to help combat this crisis.”

The use of “ghost guns” across the country has been dramatically increasing. According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the number of “ghost guns” recovered and traced by law enforcement went from 1,629 in 2016 to 19,273 in 2021, a more than 1000% increase.

Specifically, the Ghost Guns and Untraceable Firearms Actwould permanently include the core building blocks of “ghost guns”–unfinished frames and receivers–in the definition of “firearm” under federal law. In doing so, online and other gun kit manufacturers and distributors selling frames and receivers that can “readily” be converted into fully functional weapons would be required to comply with the same federal regulations that govern the production and distribution of completed firearms.

It also includes a requirement that sellers have a manufacturer’s license and put a serial number on the frame or receiver included in each kit, and that purchasers undergo a background check.

Senators Van Hollen and Cardin have fought for years to ban ghost guns and take action to reduce gun violence. In January 2022, Senators Van Hollen and Cardin urged President Biden to take swift action to close ghost gun loopholes nationwide. The Senators also fought to pass the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, legislation that was signed into law last year, which included first steps to prevent gun violence and saves lives across the country. This past January, the Senators joined in introducing a pair of bills to reinstate the assault weapons ban.

The Ghost Guns and Untraceable Firearms Act, led by Senator Blumenthal in the Senate, is cosponsored by, in addition to Senators Van Hollen and Cardin, U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), John Fetterman (D-Pa.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).

In the House, the bill is also led by, in addition to Congressman Espaillat, U.S. Representatives Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.), and Brad Schneider (D-Ill.). 

The legislation is endorsed by the Everytown for Gun Safety, Brady: United Against Gun Violence, Giffords, and Newtown Action Alliance.

Text of the Senate bill can be found here.