Pennsylvania House advances measure to prohibit ‘ghost guns’

Rep. Jen O’Mara (D-Delaware) speaks in front of the Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg on May 22, 2023. (Photo: Sean Kitchen)

By Associated Press

March 28, 2024

A proposal to ban the purchase, sale and production of untraceable gun parts passed the Pennsylvania state House of Representatives on Wednesday, with Democrats in the House using their majority to propel gun control after years of stagnation in a divided state government.

The legislation passed the House 104-97, with almost all Democrats and three Republicans voting in favor of it.

The bill will likely face a cold reception in the GOP-controlled state Senate, which has not taken up gun control measures advanced by the House this session.

So-termed “ghost guns” are firearms that don’t have serial numbers, making them difficult to trace. The measure would criminalize the sale of firearms or firearm parts without serial numbers. Anyone who purchases a gun or gun part — such as a mufflers or silencer — that lacks a serial number would also face felony charges.

At least six other states have passed similar legislation, said the bill’s primary sponsor, Rep. Morgan Cephas, D-Philadelphia.

“I want to go on record in saying: In this body, for far too long, we constantly focus on singularly going after bad actors once the crimes are committed,” she said. “This bill is an opportunity to get in front of this issue like so many other states.”

The bill is part of a package of gun control reform measures Democrats have pursued since taking the majority in 2023. They passed a slate of measures, including an assault rifle ban, out of committee in January, which still require a floor vote. Other measures sent to the state Senate have halted.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Joe Pittman of Indiana said that laws to increase safety and security “are of chief importance to the Senate Republican Caucus.” He declined to answer whether his chamber would take up the legislation.

“We remain steadfast in our ongoing support of law enforcement, leadership of school safety initiatives, and examination of ways to provide greater mental and behavioral health support to help protect our communities,” he said. “Pennsylvania currently has robust laws in place pertaining to guns, which must be enforced in every corner of our commonwealth.”

Adam Garber, the executive director of CeaseFirePA, said it was a good day in Pennsylvania.

“Ghost guns shoot, kill, and destroy lives in the exact same way as traditional firearms, but they’ve long evaded even the most basic existing gun safety rules,” he said in a prepared statement. “Today’s vote moves us closer to ending that policy failure and fulfilling our government’s primary duty to keep Pennsylvanians safe from preventable violence.”

Republicans questioned the constitutionality of the measure, saying it infringed on Second Amendment rights.

“This is not government questioning citizen’s fundamental rights, this is government removing and interfering and placing burdens on those rights, with a centralized, bureaucratic agency,” said Rep. Aaron Bernstine, R-Lawrence.

U.S. President Joe Biden took action in 2022 against ghost guns as a way to target violent crime.

 

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