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Prosecutors in Delaware and Chester counties are calling for action against ghost guns

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Ghost guns on display at the San Francisco Police Department headquarters. (AP Photo/Haven Daley)

WEST CHESTER – Chester County's district attorney joined his Delaware County counterpart on Friday in welcoming legislation passed by the state House of Representatives that would ban and make a crime the sale of so-called “ghost guns” and their parts.

These weapons are designed and packaged to be assembled from kits and other non-serialized parts that are sometimes available on the Internet. They are easy to assemble with common tools and sell without background checks.

Police routinely confiscate the guns in Delaware County.

The two local district attorneys, both Democrats, urged the state Senate to act quickly to pass the bill.

Chester County District Attorney Chris de Barrena-Sarobe in his office on West Market Street in March 2024. (Michael P. Rellahan - MediaNews Group)

Staff photo by Michael P. Rellahan

Chester County District Attorney Chris de Barrena-Sarobe in his office on West Market Street in March 2024. (Michael P. Rellahan – MediaNews Group)

In a press release, Chester County District Attorney Chris de Barrena-Sarobe stated, “Banning non-functional, untraceable ghost guns is common sense.” Removing these dangerous weapons from the streets will protect Pennsylvania's citizens and law enforcement officers cheap weapons that are the new favorite weapon of criminals. I join Governor Shapiro in calling on the State Senate to quickly pass this legislation.”

Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer, who is also running for attorney general, said in his message, “This critically important legislation gives law enforcement a much-needed tool in the fight against illegal weapons.” Ghost guns are primarily lethal weapons – they can kill and maim just as effectively as any other firearm.

“For too long, the kits to produce these weapons have been allowed to circulate without even minimal oversight. Unfortunately, law enforcement agencies are confronted with the consequences of this loophole every day. We are extremely grateful to leadership in the Legislature for taking steps to bring Pennsylvania in line with other states in regulating these firearms.”

Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer speaks.

Staff photo by Pete Bannon

Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer speaks.

The bill passed the House on March 27, with overwhelming support from Democrats — every single party representative from the two counties voted for it — and equal opposition from Republicans, including state Rep. Craig Williams, R-160, of Chadds Ford, who also ran for attorney general.

His district lies in both counties.

The bill, introduced by Reps. Morgan Cephas and Malcolm Kenyatta, both Democrats from Philadelphia, would make it a felony to sell or purchase a firearm or firearm parts without a serial number. Cephas said these untraceable firearms are a leading cause of crime, particularly in Philadelphia.

“Ghost guns are far too easy to obtain in Philadelphia, leading to non-stop gun violence on a daily basis,” Cephas said. “For far too long, the Pennsylvania Legislature has focused solely on what we do after crimes with guns are committed, rather than on unfettered access to these deadly, untraceable weapons.”

In a statement, Adam Garber, CEO of CeaseFire PA, compared ghost guns to homemade furniture, albeit with deadly consequences.

“They are the Ikea of ​​firearms. “You buy a kit with instructions, get a few tools and soon you have a ghost gun that shoots, kills and destroys lives like any conventional firearm,” Garber said. “The only difference is that the first version currently does not require background checks and is not serialized. We applaud Rep. Cephas, the leadership of the PA House of Representatives, and the bipartisan group of lawmakers who voted to close this store. It’s time for the PA Senate to do the same.”

House Budget Committee Chairman Jordan Harris, also of Philadelphia, said the bills should be a common-sense solution for members of all political parties.

“This is not a partisan issue. If a gun goes off in Philadelphia or any other part of the Commonwealth and the bullet leaves the chamber, no party registration is required,” Harris said.

Cephas added that Philadelphia and municipalities across the state are ready and willing to pass local legislation to address the problem, but Pennsylvania's preemption laws prevent them from doing so.

President Joe Biden took federal action in 2022 requiring background checks for people purchasing a gun kit and for the sellers of gun kits. However, loopholes in Pennsylvania law allow the high demand for untraceable ghost guns and gun parts to be met unattended.