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After Two Teens Shot and Killed With a Ghost Gun, Virginia Must Regulate Do-It-Yourself Firearms

May 10, 2021

In April, two teens from South County High School were shot and killed by a classmate after a social media argument. The firearm used in the shooting was later identified as a ghost gun. Ghost guns –– untraceable, do-it-yourself firearms made from parts available without a background check –– have been one of the fastest-growing threats to public safety in the country: In 2019 alone, some 10,000 ghost guns were recovered in the U.S., according to an ATF estimate.

According to Fairfax County Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Amelia Nemitz, ghost guns have been used in an increasing number of crimes in recent years. Nemitz said Fairfax County police recovered a second ghost gun and a shotgun in searches of the scene and the shooter’s home.

Virginia lawmakers should prioritize regulating ghost guns next session. State lawmakers can follow the lead of the federal government: on Friday, President Joe Biden’s Department of Justice, through the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), issued a proposed rule to stop the proliferation of deadly, untraceable ghost guns –– a move that Everytown first called for from the Biden Administration in December 2020. The proposed rule will strengthen the regulation over frames, receivers, and ghost gun “kits”, therefore requiring that the core parts for ghost guns be sold with a serial number and a background check. Tomorrow, a Senate Judiciary Committee subcommittee will also host a hearing on ghost guns. 

What to know about ghost guns: 

  • In a report released last May, the Everytown Support Fund examined a sample of 80 online ghost gun part sellers and more than 100 federal prosecutions involving ghost guns, finding that ghost guns are easier to buy than ever before and are frequently possessed by those prohibited from owning firearms, tied to criminal activity, and used by white supremacists, convicted felons, and minors. 
  • Everytown Law first urged ATF to address the growing menace of unregulated ghost guns in a petition for rulemaking filed back in December 2019, and followed that up with a lawsuit against ATF filed in August 2020, brought on behalf of Everytown as well as Syracuse, NY; San Jose, CA; Chicago, IL; and Columbia, SC.

What to know about gun violence in Virginia

  • In Virginia, on average, 1,019 people are shot and killed and 2,050 others are wounded by guns every year.
  • An average of 339 people in Virginia die by gun homicide every year; Black people in Virginia are eight times more likely than white people to die by gun homicide.
  • Gun violence costs Virginia $7.1 billion each year, of which $292.5 million is paid by taxpayers.
  • Homicide levels in major cities in Virginia, including Norfolk and Richmond, have risen over the past year, as the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the root causes of gun violence and brought unprecedented challenges to the work of local gun violence intervention programs.

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