Bill to ban ‘ghost guns’ coming to the legislature soon

An ATF agent poses with homemade rifles, or “ghost guns,” at an ATF field office in Glendale, Calif in Aug., 2017. There’s a growing industry of companies that sell gun kits, instructions, and do-it-yourself components online to help people build their own guns.

A measure to make ghost guns illegal in Colorado is expected to be introduced this week at the statehouse. 

The proposed bill would make it illegal to construct or own a firearm without a manufacturer's serial number on it, but would allow a certain period of time for people who currently have these types of weapons to get into compliance.

“Unfortunately, we've had several of the recent tragedies that have been tied directly to ghost guns or unserialized parts,” said Democratic Senator Chris Hansen of Denver, one of the main sponsors. “And unfortunately it's one of the ways that kids are getting access to guns.”

The term ‘ghost guns’ covers firearms that are crafted at home using a 3D printer or constructed from a do-it-yourself mail-order kit, making it possible for people to obtain guns without going through the background check system

Hansen believes there will be a huge public safety benefit to reducing the number of ghost guns in the state.

There have been reports that both the accused shooter at Club Q and the student who recently shot administrators at Denver’s East High School possessed ghost guns. And opponents say their untraceable nature contribute to gun trafficking, and make it harder for law enforcement to reconstruct the chain of custody when a crime has been committed.

According to the Giffords Law Center, an organization which supports stricter gun laws and tracks policies around the country, 11 states currently regulate the sale and manufacture of unserialized guns.

During his annual State of the State address Gov. Jared Polis highlighted the issue as a priority. He later told CPR News that the weapons are too easy to obtain and put together.

“We're not talking gunsmiths here. We're talking about snapping together three mail-order pieces to have a completed weapon that you had no background check for, even if you were a convicted felon... and might not legally have the right to acquire that,” Polis told Colorado Matters.

Several high profile Republicans outside of the statehouse, including Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers and Arapahoe County District Attorney John Kellner, who ran for attorney general in 2022, have said they support stricter regulations on ghost guns.

But the gun rights group Rocky Mountain Gun Owners opposes the policy and Republican Sen. Mark Baisley said he thinks it’s unlikely legislators from his party will get on board. 

“It seems like the ghost gun regulations are trying to anticipate that there will be new guns coming out that did not come through the normal manufacturing channels, and so let's try to keep track of those, register them,” said Baisley. 

But he said he feels like any type of proposal to do that conflicts with the spirit of the Second Amendment and what he sees as the frontier spirit of America.

“If folks want to arm themselves for personal protection in their homes for their personal effects, or more importantly to defend themselves from a potentially tyrannical government, then they ought to just have liberty to do that,” he said. 

Passing stricter gun laws is a priority for Democrats this year, as they settle into their wide majority in the legislature. 

Democratic lawmakers are close to approving a package of gun bills that includes raising the age to purchase any type of firearm to 21 and adds district attorneys, educators, health care providers, and licensed mental health professionals to the list of people who can file an Extreme Risk Protection Order to temporarily remove someone’s guns.

They are also moving forward with a bill requiring a three day waiting period to buy a gun. A bill to make it easier to sue firearm manufacturers for liability has cleared both chambers but lawmakers are still working to agree on amendments. 

Not every proposal has advanced quickly though; A bill that would enact a statewide ban on new assault weapons has divided Democrats, with some arguing it would not be effective. That measure has not yet been scheduled for a committee hearing