House Judiciary approves Cephas/Kenyatta bill to end ‘ghost guns’

Proposal would impose penalties for purchase of firearm or firearm parts without serial numbers

HARRISBURG, Jan. 17 – Today, the PA House Judiciary Committee approved a measure sponsored by state Reps. Morgan Cephas and Malcolm Kenyatta, both D-Phila., aimed at ending the proliferation of “ghost guns” in Pennsylvania. House Bill 777, as amended in committee, would impose a felony of the third degree on anyone who sells or purchases a firearm or firearm parts without serial numbers.

President Joe Biden took executive action in 2022 requiring background checks for someone purchasing a gun kit, as well as for the sellers of kits. However, gaps in Pennsylvania law allow the high demand for untraceable “ghost guns” and gun parts to be met without any oversight.

Cephas said these firearms are a main driver of crime, particularly in Philadelphia. “Ghost guns are far too easily obtainable in Philadelphia and in our neighboring municipalities, leading to a disproportionate effect on the day-to-day gun violence in our communities, specifically in communities of color.”

Cephas added that the state must act because city government is prevented from doing so. “Due to local preemption laws, Philadelphia or any other municipality across the state cannot enact their own reforms to address the specific problems facing their local communities, so today’s step by the House Judiciary Committee is a meaningful action for addressing the gun violence epidemic in Philadelphia.”

As a co-prime sponsor of the bill, Kenyatta, said he understands the urgency to help law enforcement on the issue. “H.B. 777 is one of the most important pieces of legislation I’ve sponsored, because it will save lives. The impact of untraceable firearms on our communities is unfathomable. We need to get ‘ghost guns’ out of the hands of criminals and folks who shouldn’t have access to firearms. The 181st District and all communities in Philadelphia are crying out for help -- getting these guns off our streets is an important step. Closing the loopholes will help us save the lives of countless Pennsylvanians.”

Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, state Rep. Tim Briggs, D-Montgomery, voiced his satisfaction that the committee is finally voting on legislation like this to help communities across the state that are wracked with gun violence. "Untraceable firearms and 'ghost guns' have been a problem in this state for many years, so I'm happy that we're finally able to move on closing our loopholes and reforming state law to bring us in line with surrounding states and federal law. I'm proud that this committee is finally acting to reduce gun violence and go after the bad actors that proliferate illegal firearms on our streets."

The committee approved five bills at today’s meeting, all of which are commonsense reforms to Pennsylvania gun laws and part of PA House Democrats’ initiative to reduce gun violence and build safer communities across the state. The legislation now moves to the full House of Representatives for consideration.

View photos from the committee meeting here.