Home Local Gov. J.B. Pritzker signs ban on untraceable, often homemade ghost guns

Gov. J.B. Pritzker signs ban on untraceable, often homemade ghost guns

by staff

Making, selling or owning ghost guns, untraceable weapons such as the one police said they recovered amid the mayhem in Millennium Park over the weekend, is now illegal in Illinois under legislation Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law Wednesday.

Ghost guns are often made by hobbyists with a 3-D printer or from kits that can be purchased online, and have no identification numbers on them that allow them to be traced by law enforcement. People assembling ghost guns also are able to avoid background checks the state requires to obtain a firearm.

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“A child should not be able to build an AR-15 like they’re building a toy truck,” Pritzker said during a bill-signing ceremony at the Ark of St. Sabina in Auburn Gresham. “A convicted domestic abuser should not be able to evade scrutiny by using a 3-D printer to make a gun.”

In Chicago and nationwide, the number of ghost guns used in crimes has drastically increased over the past several years. Chicago police Superintendent David Brown said Wednesday they are the “subset of guns seized that is growing the most” in the city.

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On Saturday night, following the fatal shooting of 16-year-old Seandell Holliday near The Bean in Millennium Park, police said another youth pulled a gun from his waistband, then ran as officers moved in. He was quickly apprehended and the weapon was found to be a ghost gun.

Last week, Illinois State Police arrested suspects in connection to multiple carjackings, and “among their weapons of choice, a ghost gun,” the governor said.

And earlier this month, a student at Oak Park River Forest High School was arrested and charged for bringing a loaded ghost gun to school.

“This law will help prevent ghost guns from getting into the hands of the wrong people, whether they be kids, whether they be criminals who shoot up our streets and recruit our children into violent activities,” said state Rep. Kam Buckner, the bill’s House sponsor and a recently announced candidate for mayor of Chicago. “The only people who need untraceable guns are people who are trying to evade the law.”

Also present Wednesday were several family members who have lost loved ones in shootings in Chicago and have become advocates against gun violence.

“These, mostly women, mourn the loss of their children, and they are courageous fighters for peace,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said. “They stand in the shoes and represent many in the city who have been victimized directly by gun violence.”

Despite their increased prevalence, ghost guns still account for a small percentage of all firearms confiscated by Chicago police each year.

From January to mid-June last year, Chicago police confiscated 245 firearms that did not have serial numbers — a tally that includes ghost guns, according to data obtained by the Tribune through an open-records request. While the number of non-serialized weapons was the highest in at least five years over those initial months, the guns were among the roughly 5,300 total firearms confiscated by Chicago cops over that period last year, statistics show.

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Many guns confiscated in relation to Chicago shootings come from other states, where ghost gun bans aren’t in place, Pritzker said. In addition to urging other Midwest states to make ghost guns illegal, the governor said he is working on a “multi-intergovernmental effort” to prohibit the illegal transport of guns across state lines.

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Law enforcement and government leaders say the “exponential” increase of ghost guns recovered is on track to increase year after year.

“We’re gonna double (the number of ghost guns seized) every year at this rate,” Illinois State Police Director Brendan Kelly said Wednesday, “which is what brings us here today.”

The ban on manufacturing ghost guns is effective immediately. Anyone who already owns such untraceable guns has six months to take them to a federally licensed firearm dealer to get them engraved with a registered identification number.

Brown said the new law will prevent people with ghost guns from avoiding consequences once they’re caught with one but did not specify further how the new law will be enforced. Gun owners with state Firearms Owners Identification cards will not be exempt.

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In April, President Joe Biden’s administration introduced a rule banning the manufacturing of ghost guns, including the kits people can buy online to build the firearm themselves.

But that measure “doesn’t go far enough,” said state Sen. Jacqueline Collins, a Chicago Democrat who sponsored the bill in her chamber. The new Illinois law cracks down, not only on manufacturers, but also on anyone possessing these untraceable guns.

“This is only a piece of our anti-violence efforts,” Collins said. “With this legislation, I am eager to see communities begin to rebuild.”

Chicago Tribune’s Jeremy Gorner contributed.

cspaulding@chicagotribune.com

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