What is a "Ghost Gun" and What is NY Doing About Them?

Originally published in WPDH on June 11, 2021.

Legislators in New York took steps this week to put an end to "ghost guns."  What exactly is a "ghost gun" and what does the legislation mean?

If you're a gun owner, you probably know that there should be a serial number and a manufacturer on the gun.  If it doesn't have those things on it, it's considered a "ghost gun."  The idea is that if a weapon is used in a crime and it has those things on it, the weapon can be traced back to a person who owns it.

According to the New York Senate, before this legislation was passed there was something called the "unfinished receiver" loophole that would allow people to buy the parts they needed to build an untraceable, unregistered gun without ever going through a background check.

"With gun violence surging across the country, now is the time to take action to close dangerous loopholes that needlessly put the safety of New Yorkers at risk." - bill sponsor Senator Anna M. Kaplan

The Bill is called "The Scott J. Beigel Unfinished Receiver Act" and is named after Scott Beigel who was a teacher that gave his life protecting his students during the attack on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

There was a second bill that also passed called The Jose Webster Untraceable Firearms Act.  So what does the bill do? The bill aims to ban the sale and possession of ghost guns and ensure law enforcement has the necessary tools to track the manufacture and sale of all guns in New York.

Here are the two pieces of legislation and what they do:

The Scott J. Beigel Unfinished Receivers Act

  • Defines what constitutes an unfinished frame or receiver
  • Makes it illegal to possess an unfinished frame or receiver
  • Prohibits the possession of major components of a firearm, rifle, or shotgun by persons who are otherwise lawfully prohibited from possessing such weapons
  • Makes it illegal to sell or transfer an unfinished frame or receiver to anyone other than a licensed gunsmith

The Jose Webster Untraceable Firearms Act

  • Defines a “ghost gun” as any firearm, rifle, or shotgun that isn’t serialized and registered in accordance with either state or federal law
  • Prohibits the possession of ghost guns by anyone but a licensed gunsmith
  • Prohibits the sale of ghost guns entirely
  • Prohibits the manufacture or assembly of a firearm, rifle, or shotgun by anyone other than a licensed gunsmith
  • Requires New York gunsmiths to serialize all firearms, rifles, shotguns, or unfinished frames or receivers they manufacture or assemble, and to register any such gun, or unfinished frame or receiver that isn’t otherwise covered by federal serialization law with the Division of State Police