In Council News, Kenyatta Johnson, News by PHL Council

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PHILADELPHIA – Philadelphia law enforcement has additional tools to crack down on so-called ghost guns in the city due to a new law sponsored by Philadelphia City Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson (2ndDistrict).

“Ghost guns in the hands of criminals are a growing problem for law enforcement nationwide, including Philadelphia,” said Johnson, who is vice chairman of Council’s Public Safety Committee and chair of Council’s Special Committee on Gun Violence Prevention. “It’s easy to find both individual parts for guns and complete kits for sale on the internet that provide everything needed for assembly. Ghost guns are not traceable because the parts lack serial numbers. My ghost gun law not only regulates ghost guns in Philadelphia, it also regulates the kits and equipment used to make them. It does not prohibit the manufacturing of guns, it just requires that it be done by licensed manufacturers in accordance with state and federal law.”

Philadelphia City Council approved Bill Number 200593, which regulates the use of ghost guns in Philadelphia, on December 10 of last year. Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney signed the bill into law on January 27 and it has been in effect for a few weeks now.

A ghost gun is a weapon that is assembled by individuals from parts or kits or that include one unfinished piece — typically the frame or receiver — that requires the purchaser to do some drilling to make the gun fully functional. Because of a loophole in federal gun regulations, these do-it-yourself weapons don’t need to have serial numbers, and the kit or individual pieces can be sold without the background check that someone that’s purchased a gun from a federally licensed dealer would have to undergo.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced on March 7 the arrests of four Philadelphia men in two separate cases following two surveillance operations at the Morgantown Gun Show in Morgantown, Pa. from February 27-28, 2021. As a result of these investigations, agents seized five fully assembled ghost guns, four 80% receiver kits, one 80% receiver, one Smith and Wesson revolver, extended magazines and more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition.

These cases are being prosecuted by the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office Gun Violence Task Force. These investigations are still ongoing.

During a November 23, 2020 City Council Public Safety Committee hearing, Councilmembers heard testimony from Philadelphia Police Inspector Francis Healy, Special Advisory to Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw, about the rise of ghost guns on Philadelphia streets.

In 2020, Philadelphia Police confiscated nearly 5,000 crime guns citywide, an all-time high, and 250 of them were ghost guns. The number of ghost guns captured in 2020 is a major increase from the 95 ghost guns recovered in 2019 and 13 ghost guns in 2018. The Philadelphia Police Department supported the passage of Bill Number 200593.

The co-sponsors on Bill Number 200593 were Councilmembers Curtis Jones, Jr., Bobby Henon, Derek Green, Allan Domb, Mark Squilla, Katherine Gilmore Richardson, Helen Gym and Isaiah Thomas.

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