When it comes to the issue of gun regulation, it is hard to imagine any law more reasonable than the bill headed for Gov. JB Pritzker’s desk that places explicit restrictions on privately manufactured weapons – “ghost guns.”
The Illinois law codifies the essence of a federal proposal announced last week by the U.S. Justice Department and President Joe Biden and makes it illegal for businesses to sell do-it-yourself firearms kits without a serial number or background check.
Note that the legislation does not make it illegal to manufacture a weapon on your 3D printer at home – a prospect troubling enough by itself – or to own one. It merely tries to ensure that if you do own one and you use it to commit a crime, law enforcement will have some hope of tracking you down.
Opponents of the measure trot out the usual Second Amendment tropes that describe any restriction at all on ownership of deadly weapons, no matter how powerful, as a constitutional sacrilege.
Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association, told the Chicago Sun-Times the state’s bill, which was approved without a single Republican vote, was unnecessary and merely “political.”
Even more to the point, the proliferation of ghost guns is swelling in urban areas where gun crimes are most common. A Sun-Times analysis found that Chicago police recovered 72 ghost guns in all of 2019. In the first three months of this year, they’ve recovered at least 166. A CNN analysis found similar results in major cities across the country. These untraceable weapons clearly appeal most not to the law-abiding citizens Pearson references but to people who are most inclined to do something illegal with the guns and do not want to be detected.
Considering such facts, it is befuddling to consider how someone who claims to support law enforcement could resist a measure that helps fight crime and support a policy that so blatantly makes the job of law enforcement more difficult.
This is especially true in the case of Illinois’ proposed law, which makes a first violation a mere misdemeanor and doesn’t elevate the crime to a felony until a second offense, in which case the question of whether the offender has law-abiding intent or not is pretty well decided.
We don’t deny that criminals and scofflaws will find ways around this or any gun-regulation effort. But the least we can do is make it harder for them. The federal policy announced by Biden this week moves in that direction, and the measure headed to Gov. Pritzker’s desk makes it official state policy. For Illinois, it’s a welcome issue on which to place itself in the forefront of the nation.
The Daily Herald