“Ghost Guns” are the new bogeyman for the gun control movement, and the Philadelphia Inquirer is telling a ghost story to readers about untraceable firearms “proliferating” in the city, where violent crime has been increasing over the last few years and District Attorney Larry Krasner’s light-on-crime approach is drawing increasing criticism.
According to Pennsylvania officials, a growing number of criminals are making firearms by milling 80% receivers, and the only way to stop them is to declare things that aren’t firearms to be firearms.
The situation is of growing concern to public officials, including Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and state Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who point to mayhem from street crimes to mass shootings committed with the weapons.
“Now we face an emerging threat in communities across Pennsylvania, the threat of ghost guns,” Shapiro said in December when he and Wolf announced a policy that classified the largest component of ghost guns, the unfinished frames, as firearms. The policy also calls for background checks for buyers.
“These are… firearms that lurk beneath the shadows, often ending up in the hands of those who can’t legally buy a firearm on their own,” Shapiro added.
Based on Shapiro’s comments, you’d think that homemade firearms are the weapons of choice for street criminals in Philadelphia. Not so, though the Inquirer doesn’t actually inform readers of this important information until paragraph 17 of its story.
While arguments over ghost guns continue, the weapons are proliferating. The Philadelphia Police Department began tracking them in the fall of 2018. Thirteen ghost guns were recovered that year, 95 in 2019, and 10 so far this year, for a total of 118, said Staff Inspector Sekou Kinebrew, the department’s spokesperson.
Let’s be blunt. “Ghost guns” aren’t the problem in Philadelphia. Live human beings who are committing violent crimes are to blame for the misery in the city’s highest-crime neighborhoods.
Gov. Wolf and AG Shapiro are getting it absolutely backwards by trying to regulate hunks of metal that aren’t firearms. They’re treating violent crime in Philadelphia as a supply side problem. Reduce the supply of firearms, so goes the theory, and you’ll reduce violent crime.
The problem is that the vast majority of firearms in Philadelphia will never be used in a violent crime. The issue isn’t one of supply, but one of demand. In particular, demand for firearms among individuals who repeatedly use them in violation of the law, often with little to no legal consequence. The homicide clearance rate in Philadelphia is less than 50-percent, and clearance rates for robberies and other violent crimes are equally low or lower.
The first thing that officials in Pennsylvania should be doing if they really want to address violent crime is to ensure that there are consequences for carjacking someone, or committing a drive-by, or shooting someone in a drug deal. It’s not easy, and it will require more of a change in tactics than a change in the law to successfully engage the community, provide greater security for witnesses, and ensure that bad actors are sent away, rather than return to the streets time and again to inflict more misery on their neighborhoods.
Instead, Wolf and other anti-gun politicians are going off on a wild goose chase. They’re running after the idea that they can somehow put enough regulations in place to stop guys who are dealing illegal drugs from getting ahold of guns illegally. I realize this is a gross simplification, not all violent criminals are drug dealers, yadda yadda. I know. Still, a large portion of Philadelphia’s violent crime is driven by its drug trade, so why would we think that these criminals are going to be stopped from illegally acquiring a firearm when we haven’t been able to stop them from getting illegal drugs?
In fact, cities like Philadelphia are now relaxing their rules on illegal drugs even as they seek to make life more difficult for legal gun owners. Mayor Jim Kenney has been trying for some time to open up a safe injection site for heroin addicts over the objections of many, including some lawmakers. District Attorney Larry Krasner has stopped prosecuting many low-level drug offenses as well, but both of the Philadelphia politicians (along with their cohorts in Harrisburg) want to ban so-called assault weapons and “high capacity” magazines, along with banning so-called “ghost guns” and a host of other gun laws aimed squarely at the legal gun owners in Pennsylvania.
It’s not only absurd to try to fight crime by turning the law-abiding into criminals, it’s actually compounding and prolonging the misery in Philadelphia’s high-crime neighborhoods. While politicians pontificate for the camera about “taking on the NRA” they’re doing nothing to take on the two or three guys who are driving the violence on any given block in the city. Many of them can be saved. Many can move on to redeem themselves, or find a new path in life before they wander too far down the wrong road if there’s intervention. But right now they’re largely ignored by the politicians, who instead are laser-focused on men and women who aren’t committing any crimes with their guns. As a result, some of these young men in Philadelphia will die. Others will end up in prison. Many of them will be caught in a cycle of violence, spending a few months in jail before returning to the streets to commit more crime, and as long as Pennsylvania politicians view the state’s legal gun owners as the biggest problem the violence in Philadelphia will tragically continue. It has nothing to do with ghost guns, but with flesh-and-blood human beings.