Shapiro, state AGs, back feds’ effort to close ‘ghost gun loophole’ | Tuesday Morning Coffee

In comments connected to a new court filing, Shapiro said Pa. has seen an ‘exponential increase’ in the  untraceable weapons

July 12, 2022 7:14 am

A display of ‘ghost guns’ displayed by Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s office during a Capitol news conference on Monday, Dec. 16, 2019 (Capital-Star photo).

Good Tuesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro has joined with colleagues in 18 states and Washington D.C., in a court filing connected to a Texas lawsuit, to support a new federal rule that would more tightly regulate so-called “ghost guns” often wielded by criminals or other people who cannot legally purchase firearms.

The new federal rule, adopted by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, would require buyers to pass background checks before purchasing the weapons, also helping law enforcement to trace them if they’re later used in a crime, Shapiro’s office said in a Monday statement.

The untraceable weapons, which lack serial numbers or other identifying marks, are made at home from kits that have been purchased online without background checks.

The new federal rule also would “limit gun traffickers’ ability to distribute these dangerous weapons in Pennsylvania,” Shapiro’s office said in its statement.

(Getty Images)

President Joe Biden plugged the federal government’s plan to regulate the weapons during a White House event in April, the Capital-Star previously reported. Biden called the new rule “basic common sense.”

The DOJ rule, first unveiled in 2021, clarifies that those kits qualify as firearms and that the manufacturers of those kits must “become licensed and include serial numbers on the kits’ frame or receiver, and commercial sellers of these kits must become federally licensed and run background checks prior to a sale – just like they have to do with other commercially-made firearms,” the White House said in a statement at the time.

In his statement, Shapiro, the Democratic nominee for governor, said he’d “long been sounding the alarm on ghost guns and how they’re becoming the weapon of choice for criminals.”

Pennsylvania has seen “an exponential increase” in the number of ghost guns recovered by law enforcement, Shapiro’s office said, requiring a federal crackdown. The rule also will aid such states as Pennsylvania that have tried to regulate the guns on their own.

“For years convicted felons, violent drug dealers, have all been able to buy these guns at gun shows without a background check,” Shapiro continued. “With these new federal regulations, we are making it harder for gun kits to end up in the hands of criminals and easier for law enforcement to track crime guns in their investigations.”

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced Glenn O. Hawbaker will pay more than $20 million in restitution for stealing from workers (Screenshot).

Between 2016 and 2020, more than 23,000 firearms without serial numbers were reported to have been recovered by law enforcement from potential crime scenes, according to DOJ officials. That tally includes weapons connected with 325 homicides or attempted homicides, the Capital-Star previously reported.

In addition to Pennsylvania, the attorneys general joining the amicus brief filed in U.S. District Court in the Galveston Division of Texas’ Southern District, hail from California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington, Washington D.C., and Wisconsin.

In May, a Houston-area gun manufacturer sued to block the federal rule, claiming it violated the Second Amendment and would put it out of business if it were allowed to take effect, the Houston Chronicle reported.

The legal team behind the federal lawsuit includes Michael Sullivan, a former ATF official under the George W. Bush administration, according to the Chronicle. The suit was filed on behalf of a company called Division 80, which “doesn’t appear to have a website, an address or any trappings of a business,” the newspaper reported in May.

In a statement to the ChronicleSullivan, and his co-counsel, Cory Liu, who formerly worked for Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, and clerked for U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said the court action was intended to “to prevent the Biden Administration from politically weaponizing the ATF and adopting an unlawful (regulation, know as the) Final Rule without Congress’s approval.”

District Attorney Larry Krasner (Jared Piper/Philadelphia City Council/City & State Pa.).

Our Stuff.
Two Democrats representing crime-ravaged districts have been appointed to serve on the House Select Committee on Restoring Law and Order established last month to investigate the causes of rising crime during Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner’s tenure. Peter Hall has the story.

Gov. Tom Wolf joined state lawmakers and senior care advocacy groups on Monday to celebrate roughly $515 million allocated for long-term care and nursing facilities as part of the state budget he signed into law last week, Marley Parish reports.

In Allegheny County, local agencies are struggling to respond to the sharp rise in overdose deaths that has swept the entire nation since early 2020, our partners at Pittsburgh City Paper report.

Equity in education and improving school experiences for School District of Philadelphia students is what Sarah-Ashley Andrews and Chau Wing Lam are hoping to accomplish as new members of the Board of Education. Details from our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune.

On our Commentary Page this morning: Philadelphia City Council President Darrell Clarke must oppose an illegal stop-and-frisk policy, opinion regular Michael Coard writes. And climate change is making flooding worldwide worse, a Colorado State University expert writes. 

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (Source: Tom Wolf Flickr.)

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate John Fetterman set a fund-raising record when he wrapped up the party’s nomination in May — and has continued to raise money at a brisk clip, the Inquirer reports.

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School officials in Susquehanna Twp., in suburban Harrisburg, have voted to reinstate the district’s Native American mascot, PennLive reports.

A second Lancaster County cinema has canceled its planned screening of a right-wing film featuring GOP gubernatorial nominee Doug MastrianoLancasterOnline reports (subscriber-only).

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The state’s new spending plan includes a home repair program that won rare bipartisan support, WHYY-FM reports (via WITF-FM).

After just five months on the job, a top Allentown official is stepping down from his newly created position, the Morning Call reports.

A city council member in Nanticoke, Luzerne County who was recently hired as a school police officer, has been charged with allegedly hitting his wife, the Citizens’ Voice reports.

In West Philadelphia, a new protest encampment is supporting tenants of a soon-to-be shuttered affordable housing complex, WHYY-FM also reports.

An Erie news anchor has been charged with allegedly faking a stalking threatGoErie reports.

Gov. Tom Wolf has signed legislation authorizing the Pennsylvania National Guard to provide cybersecurity training to local governmentsCity & State Pa. reports.

From Politico, the 20 counties — including those in Pennsylvania — that will determine the 2022 midterms.

Here’s your #Philadelphia Instagram of the Day:

What Goes On
The desk is clear. Enjoy the silence.

Gov. Tom Wolf has no public schedule today.

Heavy Rotation
The other day, I picked up a copy of punk legend Patti Smith’s memoir ‘Year of the Monkey.‘ And it occurred to me that if there’s any voice that’s going to meet our trying hour, it’s her’s. Play this one loud — it’s ‘People Have the Power.’

Tuesday’s Gratuitous Soccer Link
In the latest summer transfer action, Manchester United’s Paul Pogba has completed a move back to Juventus, the Guardian reports.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.