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Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart speaks about ghost guns. (Photos courtesy of the Cook County Sheriff’s Office)

Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart speaks about ghost guns. (Photos courtesy of the Cook County Sheriff’s Office)

Sheriff Dart, state Sen. Collins propose legislation to ban ‘ghost guns’

From staff reports

Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart and state Senator Jacqueline Collins have proposed legislation to ban “ghost guns”–homemade, untraceable weapons that are increasingly being found by police fighting Chicago area violence.

“The rapid proliferation of these weapons is alarming, and they are intentionally being used by individuals who want to thwart investigations – a clear threat to public safety,” Dart said. “We must close this legal loophole to give us the tools to try to stop the flow of these weapons.”

Ghost guns are homemade firearms without serial numbers. Unlike typical firearms, they can’t be traced by law enforcement to the original purchaser, often a key investigative step.

The kits used to build these weapons are available online and are not legally required to have serial numbers, and they can be sold without background checks. The kits can readily become an operable firearm with a few easy-to-find parts and common tools.

The number of ghost guns recovered by law enforcement skyrocketed nearly 400 percent nationally between 2016 and 2020, when more than 8,700 were found, according to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

“Gun violence is plaguing Illinois’ black and brown communities, including those in the 16th Senate District,” Collins said. “The proliferation of guns in our country and in our state drives this problem. Getting non-serialized ghost guns off the streets is a step forward in addressing violence so we can start healing our communities.”

The 16th District includes portions of Chicago Lawn, Wrightwood, Ashburn, Parkview and Scottsdale, as well as other city neighborhoods and suburban towns.

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Components of a ghost gun kit.

The legislation will ban privately made firearms unless they are registered with the state and affixed with a serial number. The legislation gives a six-month grace period for ghost gun owners to register. The sale of non-serialized gun kits would be banned immediately. A first offense would be a Class A misdemeanor, which carries up to a year in jail. Subsequent offenses would be a Class 3 felony, which carries a five-to-10-year prison sentence.

These charges would be in addition to any other offenses an individual may face.

“The proliferation of ghost guns in Cook County undermines strong gun violence prevention laws and tireless law enforcement work to keep residents safe,” said Kris Brown, president of the Illinois chapter of Brady United Against Gun Violence. “The action proposed today will stop these untraceable firearms from flooding the county’s communities, exacerbating the gun violence that already disproportionately affects Illinois’ Black and Brown residents.”

Brady is one of four gun violence prevention organizations that support the legislation. The others are Giffords Law Center, Everytown for Gun Safety, and The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.

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Anti-gun activist Delphine Cherry speaks in support of the proposed law.

“Ghost guns are a rapidly growing threat that are exacerbating the severe gun violence crisis,” said David Pucino, Senior Staff Attorney at Giffords Law Center. “These products allow traffickers to source untraceable firearms and threaten to undermine Illinois’s strong gun safety laws. This legislation is a bold step towards addressing gun violence by banning these dangerous, untraceable weapons. We thank Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart for his leadership on this important issue.”

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