News|Law

Pennsylvania Attorney General Shapiro at yesterday’s press conference.

On Monday Pennsylvania Attorney General Shapiro held a press conference with Gov. Tim Wolfe, Pennsylvania State Police, and State Legislators on the classification of 80% receivers to be recognized as firearms under the state law. 

Attorney General Shapiro released his legal opinion on Monday that says 80% receivers or “ghost guns” are now considered firearms under Pennsylvania law. This opinion allows State Police and local law enforcement agencies to charge criminals who are in possession of a “ghost gun” or firearm parts and accessories to complete a “ghost gun”.

Shapiro said his office’s agents have seized more than 100 of the unserialized firearms in Philadelphia alone. Yet, they had no recourse to deal with the unserialized firearms confiscated by his agents. 

The Pennsylvania State police requested the legal opinion by AG Shapiro. Law enforcement officials said they had no legal recourse to address the 80% receivers found at crime scenes or in the possession of a felon. 

During the press conference Shapiro discussed that his office will be working with state police to develop guidance that will be shared with firearm vendors, gun stores, and others who sell these kits.

He also touched upon how people can buy these 80% receivers and the rest of the integral parts to build a firearm without a background check. Shapiro also stated that unserialized firearms are an emerging threat to public safety and a growing concern to law enforcement within the state. 

Shapiro spoke to how that loophole is closing for criminals stating,  “Criminals should take notice that this loophole for you to receive 80 Percent Receivers and manufacturer your own firearm is closing.”

Governor Tim Wolfe spoke in support of the legal opinion given by AG Shapiro. The governor emphasized that the legal opinion AG Shapiro issued is under the authority given to him by the Commonwealth Attorney Act and does not infringe on Second Amendment rights of legal firearm owners. It remains legal for an individual who is under the law to posses a firearm or to have an 80% receiver. 

Gov. Wolfe states, “This change will stop criminals. It will stop terrorists and other lawless people who can’t pass a background check from acquiring a gun through a loophole that never should have existed in the first place.”

Gun advocates oppose of the legal opinion by Attorney General Shapiro. 

Kim Stolfer, co-founder of Pennsylvania Firearms Owners Against Crime spoke out against the opinion saying,  Shapiro’s move is unnecessary because under existing law, a person barred from possessing a firearm is breaking the law as soon as they assemble the ghost gun into a working firearm. Stolfer also called the legal opinion a “misdirection” aimed at convincing the public more gun control is needed when the state just needs to do a better job of enforcing its existing gun laws. 

David Weber, NRA State Director For Pennsylvania also spoke out against the Attorney General Shapiro’s opinion. 

“This is yet another example of an anti-gun politician attempting to contort the law in order to deny law-abiding Americans of their Second Amendment rights,” he said. “The Attorney General is claiming that something explicitly designed not to fire a projectile can, in fact, fire a projectile. Pennsylvania would be better served by a chief law enforcement officer who focuses on violent criminals instead of trying to ensnare law-abiding citizens in his quest to destroy our fundamental freedoms and rights.”

Meanwhile gun safety advocates praise AG Shapiro opinion. 

Shira Goodman, executive director of CeaseFire PA, praised the new legal opinion. Goodman praised Shapiro for stepping up and addressing the loophole that more and more criminals are taking advantage of. She expects that this opinion will face legal challenges down the road. 

“When these kits started, they were for really craft people. Gun owners who really wanted to be able to build their own gun and it was hard to do. It’s really gotten so much easier and much cheaper,” she said. “Once again, we’re seeing our executives, the attorney general and governor, take action when the folks who work in this building, the Legislature, isn’t. We’re grateful to have them.”

Managing Director Nick Suplina, for law and policy at Everytown for Gun Safety, also praised Attorney General Shapiro opinion. 

“Attorneys General, policymakers and leaders at all levels of government should follow the lead of Attorney General Shapiro — particularly the ATF, which already has the power to act,” he said in a statement.

According to the Gifford Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, four states have enacted laws to addressed undetectable and untraceable firearms which are California, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Washington. While New York has a law to address undetectable firearms they do not have any law in regards to untraceable firearms. 

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