Ghost guns: Fueling real horror in PA communities

Ghost guns are untraceable, do-it-yourself kits

PHILADELPHIA, March 4 – Ghost guns are increasingly being confiscated by law enforcement during criminal investigations, and the House Majority Policy Committee examined the loopholes that allow criminals to purchase these untraceable weapons with no background checks.

“Today’s hearing highlighted the frustration of law enforcement to provide justice to victims of gun violence and their families,” Speaker of the House Joanna McClinton said. “Pennsylvania is behind the curve in passing legislation to address gun violence, and it highlighted the reason we need bipartisan support for these measures.”

Ghost guns are privately purchased kits that can be assembled into firearms with no traceable serial number or identifying characteristics. They do not require a background check for purchase, because kits – or firearm parts – are not considered firearms in Pennsylvania. Kits can be assembled with the use of a drill or ordinary tools, and some kits contain the drill bit needed for final assembly.

“It’s infuriating to know, as I mentioned during the judiciary committee hearing on HB 777, how quickly I could use my cellphone to purchase a ghost gun without any meaningful checks,” said meeting host Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, who represents portions of Philadelphia. “We are talking about untraceable firearms that can be assembled with ease. They are completely untraceable, and they are legal to purchase without any age requirement or background checks, and they are contributing to gun violence in all communities throughout Pennsylvania – and the nation.”  

Reps. Morgan Cephas and Kenyatta authored H.B. 777, which closes loopholes in Pennsylvania state law against the use of untraceable ghost gun parts. The bill advanced out of the House Judiciary Committee in January. The bill would make it a felony to sell a firearm or firearm parts without a serial number.

“As a responsible gunowner, it’s time for Pennsylvania to deal with these loopholes that enable criminals to arm themselves with ease,” House Majority Policy Committee Chairman Ryan Bizzarro said. “Today’s testimony highlighted that some of these proposals are backed by law enforcement, and we have a need for bipartisanship at the state level when it comes to enforcing background checks and the type of legislation responsible gun owners support.”  

Monday’s House Majority Policy hearing featured testimony from William Fritze from the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, who serves as Gun Violence Task Force chief, and CeaseFirePA’s Executive Director Adam Garber. NOMO Foundation hosted the hearing.

Pennsylvania ranked seventh in the nation in firearm deaths (1,905) in 2021, the most recent year for statistics.

Ghost guns have been available in the U.S. since at least the 1990s, however, their popularity increased during the last 15 years as buyers circumvented California’s state law against assault weapons by purchasing ghost guns. Ghost guns made national news in 2013 following the revelation the mass shooter at Santa Monica Community College assembled his own .223 semi-automatic rifle.   

The proliferation of ghost guns followed, and Pennsylvania mirrored other states and the nation. Ghost guns represented 2% of firearms recovered in Philadelphia in 2019, but that number had increased by 311% by 2022 – with the Philadelphia Police Department seizing more than 575 ghost guns during criminal investigations.

Garber noted this is not just a Philadelphia problem, and the city has been tracking ghost guns statistics that have aided in highlighting the problem. He spotlighted the fact that the many of the guns used in crimes are being brought into the city of Philadelphia from outlying areas – and not the other way around. He also noted ghost guns on the streets are being used against law enforcement.  

When a mass shooter was cornered by law enforcement following the murder of five in Kingsessing, a neighborhood in southwest Philadelphia, he had two ghost guns

Information about this hearing and other House Majority Policy Committee hearings can be found at The livestream from the hearing can be found at Photos to be used for publication can be found at