Four cities sued the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), demanding it correct its definition of firearms and halt the sale of untraceable “ghost gun” kits increasingly used in crimes, Reuters reports. The lawsuit is the first of its kind filed against the ATF, say lawyers for the cities of Chicago, San Jose, Columbia, S.C., and Syracuse, N.Y. It was filed in the Southern District of New York. “Ghost gun” or “80% gun” kits are self-assembled from parts purchased online or at gun shows. The parts that are assembled are not classified as a firearm by the ATF. For that reason, they can be legally sold with no background checks and without serial numbers to identify the finished product.
The lawsuit argues the ATF and the Department of Justice “refuse to apply the clear terms of the Gun Control Act,” which the suit says defines regulated firearms as not only working weapons “but also their core building blocks – frames for pistols, and receivers for long guns.” The ATF says the so-called ghost guns “have not reached the ‘stage of manufacture’ which would result in the classification of a firearm.” Everytown for Gun Safety, an advocacy group and a plaintiff in the lawsuit, says that until about 2006, the ATF required unfinished components that clearly were going to be used to make guns to carry a serial number and anyone buying them undergo a background check. How many ghost guns are in circulation is unknown, but law enforcement agencies say the number is growing. Police in Washington, D.C., last year recovered more than 100 ghost guns – a 342 percent increase over 2018. They are already on pace this year to double the number. ATF has said upward of 30 percent of illegal weapons it has confiscated in some areas of California are ghost guns.