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Editorial Advisory Board: We need a federal ban on ‘ghost guns,’ too

“Ghost guns” are guns, often handguns that start as an unfinished receiver – the lower part of a handgun.  They are usually sold at least 20% unfinished and without a serial number. In their unfinished form they are not considered firearms by the ATF and the buyer does not have to pass a NICS background check in order to take possession.

These guns generally start with a plastic receiver, handle, trigger guard and the rest of the gun below the slide. The receiver, if finished, is the part of a gun the ATF considers a regulated firearm, but these kits arrive by mail, 80% finished and without serial numbers. A short time with a drill and a Dremel turns the 80% receiver into a vessel that will accept a slide, barrel and internal parts, all available by mail order, also without a NICS background check.

The result: A person a NICS background check would show to be prohibited under 18 USC 922(g) can buy all of these parts and make a fully workable gun.  Or an entrepreneurial person can buy hundreds of these parts, finish them, and sell them without any scrutiny.

Baltimore and San Francisco police have stated that ghost guns constitute 20% of the guns they confiscated in 2021. Ghost guns, then, are becoming a major source of guns held by what are likely people prohibited by federal law from owning guns. Those prohibited are most often people with criminal records or records of violence.

A ghost gun was recently used by a 17-year-old in the Bronx to kill a 16-year-old innocent bystander.

The Maryland General Assembly recently passed laws banning the sale in Maryland of ghost guns after June 1, 2022, and the possession of ghost guns after March 1, 2023.  We applaud this action.

President Joe Biden is attempting to do the same under federal law. And why not? While there might be some hobbyists who will complain they can’t make their own guns, there is no reason why these 80% receivers can’t be serialized and sold to non-prohibited hobbyists as firearms by ATF-licensed manufacturers, requiring the buyer to pass a NICS background check.

We do not believe this ban by Maryland or the federal government would violate anyone’s Second Amendment rights. As Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in Heller, constitutional rights, such as the right to possess guns, are subject to reasonable restrictions.  We believe these laws are reasonable restrictions and that these laws can and will save some lives by removing access to guns from those who are already banned from possession.

Editorial Advisory Board members Nancy Forster and Leigh Goodmark did not participate in this opinion.


James B. Astrachan, Chair

James K. Archibald

Gary E. Bair

Andre M. Davis

Arthur F. Fergenson

Nancy Forster

Susan Francis

Leigh Goodmark

Roland Harris

Michael Hayes

Julie C. Janofsky

Ericka N. King

Angela W. Russell

Debra G. Schubert

H. Mark Stichel

The Daily Record Editorial Advisory Board is composed of members of the legal profession who serve voluntarily and are independent of The Daily Record. Through their ongoing exchange of views, members of the board attempt to develop consensus on issues of importance to the bench, bar and public. When their minds meet, unsigned opinions will result. When they differ, or if a conflict exists, majority views and the names of members who do not participate will appear. Members of the community are invited to contribute letters to the editor and/or columns about opinions expressed by the Editorial Advisory Board.