As the co-chair of the General Assembly Gun Violence Prevention Caucus, confronting the gun violence crisis has been a priority of mine for years. While I support the Second Amendment and the availability of firearms for hunting, self-defense, and sport, we must implement common-sense gun safety laws that keep dangerous firearms out of the hands of those who will not responsibly use them. I have two bills this session focused on gun safety. The first, addresses the growing threat of “ghost guns” the second targets firearms without serial numbers being used and traded. Mirror versions of these bills are being carried by House member Delegate Marcus Simon (D-Falls Church). Both bills passed the Senate Judiciary Committee and await floor votes.
Ghost guns are undetectable, untraceable firearms which can be bought online, assembled with ease, and function precisely like any other firearm. These weapons pose a serious and deliberate problem. Law enforcement report seeing a rise in the use of these weapons in criminal acts as well as accidental shootings. It can be easier to build a ghost gun than to assemble an Ikea dresser. The process of converting ghost gun parts — which can be purchased without a background check, license or record of sale, into a functioning firearm — involves just a few steps and can be completed without any specialized skill. Due to the nature of their component parts, these weapons cannot be detected by normal security screening methods, like those you would encounter in an airport. They are particularly enticing to people who cannot pass a background check — domestic abusers, minors, organized crime, and those with a violent felony record. In 2018, a man prohibited from accessing guns built his own ghost gun from parts ordered online and perpetrated a mass shooting at his workplace in Middleton, Wisconsin. In late 2019, a 16-year-old, too young to purchase a firearm, used a ghost gun to kill two students and injured three others at Saugus High School in California.
My legislation fixes a loophole: manufacturers are required to put a serial number on finished firearms but not on individual parts. This bill requires manufacturers, dealers, and distributors to add a serial number, which legitimizes a weapon and makes it traceable if used in a crime, to the parts sold in Ghost Gun kits.
My second bill, SB 643, has garnered support from a broad coalition including the Virginia Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, the Virginia Citizens Defense League, prosecutors, and the State Police Association. This bill addresses the people using or distributing firearms that are already illegal: guns that have had their serial number removed. Removing the serial number makes the devices untraceable when found or connected to a crime. Federal law makes possessing, transporting, or delivering a gun with an altered serial number a felony. Under current Virginia law, only the removal or alteration of a serial number is a crime, but not the use or sale of such a gun. Commonwealth’s Attorneys cannot prosecute people in state courts for this offense.
Considerable effort is required to remove a serial number from a weapon. At minimum, welding tools and drills are needed. Removing the serial number is an intentional act aimed at avoiding accountability for actions taken by the person wielding the weapon. These are crime guns, full stop.
While no one law can prevent all violent incidents, I believe that smarter gun regulations are a part of the solution to prevent some of the tragedies that we all wish to end including homicides, domestic violence, children’s accidental deaths, and suicide by firearm. I am certain that the lives that we save will be worth the effort.
It is my continued honor to serve the 30th District,
Adam P. Ebbin
Member, Senate of Virginia