Ghost guns: US cities sue the federal government

According to attorneys representing the cities of Chicago, San Jose, Columbia, South Carolina, and Syracuse, New York, the case is the first of its kind brought against the ATF.

Washington DC area students participate in a protest calling for stricter gun control as a part of t...

Three US cities, including Chicago, sued the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) over untraceable ghost guns. The cities seek an accurate definition of what a firearm is as they aim to prevent the sale of untraceable “ghost gun” kits used increasingly in crimes. 

According to attorneys representing the cities of Chicago, San Jose, Columbia, South Carolina, and Syracuse, New York, the case is the first of its kind brought against the ATF. It filed the case in New York’s Southern District.

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Individuals use parts bought online or at exhibits to make these so-called “ghost guns.” The ATF does not list the assembled parts as being a weapon. For this purpose, people can get these parts without any background checks. Also, they have no serial number making it impossible to track or identify the end product.

The lawsuit claims that the ATF and the Department of Justice “fail to enforce the specific terms of the Gun Control Act.” The lawsuit describes controlled firearms not only as functioning guns “but also as their basic building blocks-pistol frames, and long gun receivers.”  

Issue of ghost guns

The ATF states on its site that receivers where the fire-control cavities are solid “have not reached the stage of manufacture’ that would result in being identified as a firearm.”

The ATF said it would not comment on ongoing cases, in an emailed statement. It said the legislation is responsible for its regulatory and compliance duties. The office stressed that it investigates illegal possession and the use of illegal firearms.

Every Town for Gun Safety is an advocacy organization that is backing the case along with the cities. It claims that until about 2006, the ATF gave serial numbers to unfinished components used to make guns. Also, anyone purchasing them must undergo background checks.

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