While U.S. Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal are pushing for legislation to require background checks for all gun purchases, the proposed legislation would not close a loophole that allows people who are disqualified from owning a firearm to purchase the parts needed to assemble a gun themselves - a firearm commonly known as a “ghost gun.”
Ghost guns do not have serial numbers and make it nearly impossible for law enforcement to trace the firearm and its origin.
“Without an identifiable number, there’s no way to find out who owns it and where it came from,” said Southington Detective John Marenholz. He added that “word of mouth” would be the only way to find out who made a ghost gun and where it was sold.
Southington police arrested a man in November who state prosecutors believe was buying gun parts, assembling them to create a fully functional firearm and selling them over the Internet. Although he has not been charged with the sale or attempted sale of the guns, which is illegal for ghost guns, authorities say some of the guns found fit the state’s criteria for an assault rifle.
According to Marenholz, it’s not illegal to own a ghost gun unless the person in possession of it has been disqualified from owning a firearm or if a component of the gun in itself is illegal, such as an assault rifle - which is illegal in Connecticut. However, someone who’s not allowed to own a gun would not be subject to a background check if they purchased all the necessary parts for a gun and completed the milling process.
Murphy and Blumenthal’s proposed legislation would extend background checks - already done when a gun is bought at a store - to firearms bought at gun shows and off the Internet, something Jim Zoppi, owner of Jim’s Gun Shop in Plainville, said he supports.
“It’s always good keeping the paperwork going,” Zoppi, whose store used to operate in Bristol, said of the paperwork gun stores are required to complete during firearms transactions. When a gun is stolen, he said, the paperwork helps trace its origin.
“The background checks bill Murphy introduced addresses who can buy a gun by requiring every purchase to go through a background check,” Laura Maloney, the senator’s press secretary, said in an email correspondence. “It does not address the creation of guns, like ghost guns.”
“Senator Murphy supports banning ghost guns,” Maloney continued, adding that he cosponsored a bill addressing ghost guns in 2018, which ultimately failed.
While Southington police recently charged a man believed to be making his own guns and selling them, two of which were considered assault weapons, Southington officers and other area police departments say ghost guns, thus far, have not become a major issue for them.
“It hasn’t been a big issue so far,” said Southington Lt. Stephen Elliot. “It’s not something we’ve come across a lot.”
Justin Muszynski can be reached at 860-973-1809 or firstname.lastname@example.org.