Illinois governor signs bill banning 'ghost guns' amid rise in gun violence

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Illinois banned unmarked "ghost guns" Wednesday after a number of deadly shootings renewed nationwide concerns about gun violence.

"Ghost guns" are untraceable weapons sometimes made from a kit, assembled with parts purchased online or by 3D printers that do not require a background check and lack serial numbers, which makes it difficult to trace the owner.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a bill that bans under certain circumstances the sale of the weapons and unfinished frames without serial numbers. It will be illegal to possess or receive an unfinished frame unless it has a serial number 180 days after day the law goes into effect.

Selling an unserialized firearm or gun kit will be considered a Class 4 felony, which could result in a fine and a prison sentence between one and three years. Anyone possessing or purchasing these weapons would be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor, which could result in fines and a prison sentence less than one year.

The bill makes Illinois the first state in the Midwest to ban "ghost guns," the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

In May, Illinois State Police worked on 28 cases involving ghost guns, Pritzker's office said in a statement. Two teenagers were charged with the possession of "ghost guns" and individuals associated with multiple armed carjackings were arrested.

“We are seeing these unseralized guns being built in basements by those who should never have had access to such dangerous weapons and then used to commit heinous crimes, and it must be stopped to keep Illinoisans safe," Pritzker said.

Pritzker's office noted that President Joe Biden's administration has taken similar steps to address "ghost guns" by requiring serialization and reclassifying the kits as firearms. In 2021, about 20,000 ghost guns were recovered during criminal investigations, a tenfold increase from 2016, the Justice Department said.

“These guns are weapons of choice for many criminals," Biden said in a Rose Garden ceremony in April. "We are going to do everything we can to deprive them of that choice and, when we find them, put them in jail for a long, long time.”

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Ensuring that all firearms are serialized would help law enforcement trace weapons used in crimes, according to a statement from gun violence prevention organization Everytown for Gun Safety. The statement called ghost guns "one of the fastest-growing gun safety problems facing our country."

“This bill will give law enforcement officers the tools they need to better protect Illinois’ communities from gun violence and take real steps towards saving lives," said Valerie Burgest, a volunteer with the Illinois Chapter of Moms Demand Action.

The new law also comes amid a rise in gun violence and after a number of recent high-profile shootings. "Ghost guns" have also been used in at least three recent mass shootings: A 2019 shooting in Santa Clarita, California, that left two students at Saugus High School dead; a 2017 shooting in Tehama County, California, that left four people dead; and a 2013 shooting in Santa Monica, California, that left five people dead.

Contributing: Michael Collins and Ryan Miller, USA TODAY

Contact Breaking News Reporter N'dea Yancey-Bragg at nyanceybra@gannett.com or follow her on Twitter @NdeaYanceyBragg

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Illinois governor signs bill banning 'ghost guns'

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