Illinois has become the first midwestern state to ban so-called ‘ghost guns,’ with officials claiming the untraceable firearms are tied to rising crime.
Governor JB Pritzker, a Democrat, signed the new law on Wednesday in a ceremony at St. Sabina Church in Chicago, with Mayor Lori Lightfoot and other officials in attendance.
Ghost guns are often made using 3D printers to fabricate key firearm parts that lack serial numbers, and the new law bans making, buying or selling such weapons.
‘A child should not be able to build an AR-15 like they’re building a toy truck,’ Pritzker said at the bill signing, which comes as Chicago grapples with a surge in shootings.
‘A convicted domestic abuser should not be able to evade scrutiny by using a 3D printer to make a gun,’ he added.
Governor JB Pritzker signed a new law banning so-called ‘ghost guns’ on Wednesday
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot praised the measure, saying ‘This issue of ghost guns is a continued and rising threat to our safety’
Ghost guns can be purchased as kits online, and often use 3D printed parts in the place of components that would normally carry a serial number
Earlier this week, Lightfoot implemented a curfew for unaccompanied minors this weekend after a spate of deadly gun violence, which saw a 16-year-old boy shot dead.
The curfew will ban juveniles from downtown Chicago’s Millennium Park on weekend evenings, after teenager Seandell Holliday was fatally shot near a popular tourist attraction – a sculpture called ‘The Bean’ – in the famed park.
Chicago’s 797 homicides in 2021 – its highest annual toll in a quarter of a century – eclipsed the totals in the two bigger US cities, surpassing Los Angeles’ tally by 400 and New York’s by nearly 300.
This year, Chicago has recorded 779 shooting incidents and 194 homicides, a slight dip from the 898 shootings and 207 homicides during the same period in 2021, according to figures last updated by the Chicago Police Department on May 8.
Nevertheless, violence has been rising in the First District that covers Millennial Park and the downtown Loop district, which is key to the city’s tourism industry.
So far this year, major crimes are up 129 percent in the First compared to the same period in 2021, CPD data show.
First responders move a shooting victim to an ambulance on Adams Street near State Street in downtown Chicago on Saturday
Chicago police look for evidence on South State Street in downtown Chicago after a shooting on Saturday
Lightfoot said on Wednesday that CPD had recovered 264 ghost guns in 2021, representing a 64 percent increase from the prior year and up from just two in 2016.
‘This issue of ghost guns is a continued and rising threat to our safety,’ said Lightfoot at the bill signing ceremony.
‘This is a crisis moment for us around violence in general, but also around the proliferation of these ghost guns,’ she said.
Lightfoot called for a federal law banning ghost guns, saying that ‘guns are pouring across the border’ into Chicago from nearby states.
She called the untraceable guns ‘dangerous weapons of mass destruction.’
Pritzker in his remarks on Wednesday also tied the troubling crime trends to the ghost gun issue.
‘The people creating, selling, and purchasing these firearms know that they’re working to circumvent common-sense gun laws that ensure guns stay out of the hands of traffickers, abusers, and convicted criminals,’ he said in a statement.
‘We are seeing these unseralized guns being built in basements by those who should never have had access to such dangerous weapons and then used to commit heinous crimes, and it must be stopped to keep Illinoisans safe.’
Mayor Lightfoot, CPD Superintendent David O. Brown, and other leaders gather at the bill signing on Wednesday in Chicago
Lightfoot called the untraceable guns ‘dangerous weapons of mass destruction’
Across the country in 2021, officials recovered 19,344 ghost guns, compared to just 1,758 five years earlier, according to a Justice Department report.
In addition to Illinois, ten other states have laws restricting ghost guns: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Washington.
In April, President Joe Biden announced a crackdown on ghost guns with a new administrative rule, pushing back at pro-gun advocates who called his ideas ‘extreme’.
‘Is it extreme to protect police officers, extreme to protect our children?… It isn’t extreme, it’s basic, common sense,’ Biden said.
The new rule requires that weapons part kits that can be assembled into a working firearm will be subject to the same requirements as commercially available, fully assembled guns, administration officials said.
For example, dealers selling ‘ghost gun’ kits will now have to conduct a background check on prospective buyers.
In April, President Joe Biden announced a crackdown on ghost guns and showed off the parts that can be ordered online to assemble the weapons
Gun kit manufacturers must also include a serial number on key weapon components, while licensed dealers who take a ‘ghost gun’ into their inventory must add a serial number, the US Justice Department said in a statement.
Finally, to boost tracing efforts, the new rule states that federally licensed dealers of firearms must keep records for as long as they are in business, rather than for a 20-year period, as is currently the case.
‘This rule will make it harder for criminals and other prohibited persons to obtain untraceable guns, will help ensure that law enforcement officers can retrieve the information they need to solve crimes, and will help reduce the number of untraceable firearms flooding our communities,’ said Attorney General Merrick Garland.