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Clarence Page: What the right doesn’t get about ‘ghost guns’

Clarence Page, Tribune Content Agency on

An often-repeated story about W.C. Fields holds that as he approached the end of his life, a friend was surprised to find him reading a Bible.

“Looking for loopholes, m’boy,” he reportedly explained. “Looking for loopholes.”

That scene comes to mind these days as I hear the standard response given by the National Rifle Association, the Gun Owners of America and other gun rights groups to even the most modest attempts to inject a little sanity into our nation’s gun laws.

The latest example of loophole-seeking has emerged in the recent pandemic of “ghost guns.” I’m not talking about the spirits of deceased firearms. “Ghost guns,” as many have been learning, is a street nickname for home-assembled firearms. Their parts can be 3D printed or ordered over the internet and constructed at home like Ikea furniture to produce a full-fledged gun.

The bad news is in their illegality. Buyers of unfinished parts or components have not been required to undergo a background check and their weapons have no serial numbers, which makes them virtually impossible for police to trace.

Yes, like spam and some other modern irritants, online ghost gun markets are a dubious consequence of the internet age, spreading like a viral tweet. No need to prowl back alleys for your illegal blaster, even if you have a felony on your record that would disqualify you from legal gun ownership. Just go online.

 

As if we didn’t have enough guns on the street already. “The last thing we need in our community right now,” Cook County (Illinois) Sheriff Tom Dart said recently, “is not just more guns, but more guns that can’t be traced.”

True. Hunters, collectors and other firearm enthusiasts, including some of my personal friends, have many legal ways to practice their pastime, but, as the sheriff observed, there’s no need to have a ghost gun unless you’re planning to commit a crime.

That’s why, in response to growing national pressure, President Joe Biden last week announced new rules to regulate ghost guns under the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Earlier this month, Illinois lawmakers approved legislation to join the 10 other states that have cracked down on the sale or transfer of gun parts that do not have serial numbers.

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