Skip to content

Heinrich Cosponsors Legislation to Protect Communities from Untraceable Ghost Guns

Loopholes in current statutes allow anyone – including felons, traffickers, & extremists – to manufacture or assemble untraceable firearms with at-home, do-it-yourself technologies

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) cosponsored the bicameral Ghost Guns and Untraceable Firearms Act. The legislation, led by U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and U.S. Representative Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.), would require online and other sellers of gun-making kits to comply with federal firearm safety regulations. 
“We cannot allow ‘ghost guns’ to evade federal regulations simply because of how they are made and purchased,” said Heinrich. “This legislation will make sure the components of these weapons are traceable and subject to the same federal requirements that govern the production and distribution of other firearms.” 
“Ghost guns are a major threat to public safety and law enforcement’s ability to protect our communities,” said 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 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.” 
“Ghost” guns can be purchased online or from unlicensed sellers and be easily assembled with 3-D printers or do-it-yourself gun making kits. Without unique serial numbers, these guns are often untraceable and impede investigations by law enforcement. Under current law, they can also be obtained without passing a background check, making them a weapon of choice for criminals, extremists, and minors.  
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. That includes the weapon used by a 14-year-old in Albuquerque to shoot and kill a 16-year-old classmate at West Mesa High School last year. 
The Ghost Guns and Untraceable Firearms Act would 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. 
The legislation has been endorsed by New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence, Everytown for Gun Safety, Brady: United Against Gun Violence, Giffords, and Newtown Action Alliance. 
“Senator Heinrich is once again leading the charge to make our communities safer in New Mexico and across the country,” said Miranda Viscoli, Co-President of New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence. “Ghost guns and gun kits are becoming a weapon of choice for those who are barred from purchasing firearms, including felons, domestic violence offenders and minors. The Ghost Guns and Untraceable Firearms Act will close a dangerous loophole that allows manufacturers and distributors to skirt federal regulations in the production and distribution of completed firearms.” 
This legislation is the latest action taken by Senator Heinrich to curb gun violence and get guns out of the hands of those who pose a threat to themselves or others.  
In June, Heinrich introduced the BUMP Act, legislation to prohibit the sale of bump stocks and other devices that allow semi-automatic firearms to increase their rate of fire and effectively operate as fully automatic weapons. 
Heinrich was also a member of the core bipartisan group that negotiated the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act—the first significant federal gun safety legislation in 30 years— specifically leading the successful effort to stop illegal gun trafficking across our borders and to increase criminal penalties for straw purchasing. Find more information about that legislation here
Text of the Ghost Guns and Untraceable Firearms Act can be found here