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John L. Smith On Ghost Guns And Why Some Lawmakers Want To End Their Sale

In this Nov. 27, 2019, file photo, are "ghost guns" on display at the headquarters of the San Francisco Police Department in San Francisco.
(AP Photo/Haven Daley, File)

In this Nov. 27, 2019, file photo, are "ghost guns" on display at the headquarters of the San Francisco Police Department in San Francisco.

The growing criminal use of untraceable ghost guns, firearms without serial numbers that are made from kits, has generated a political showdown in Congress and in the Nevada Legislature.

Gun control advocates want the guns to have serial numbers or to be eliminated. Second Amendment supporters say the guns should be protected by the amendment.

There is a bill before the Nevada Legislature that would require gun kits to have serial numbers or be banned entirely, and in Congress, they’re holding a hearing on the relative danger of ghost guns.

State of Nevada contributor John L. Smith has been monitoring the issue as it makes its way through the Legislature.

“A hot gun on the street can be a costly thing,” he said, “These ghost gun kits can go for a couple of hundred dollars. Once they’re carved out and put together, they shoot and kill just like a regular weapon”

Smith also noted that other guns have serial numbers, giving law enforcement at least a chance of finding the owner, no serial numbers on ghost guns make it almost impossible to trace back.

Today, there is a hearing in Washington, D.C. on the guns. Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal is leading it.  President Joe Biden also recently talked about the issue of ghost guns.

“This is really the convergence, nationally, of gun safety advocates,” Smith said, “Washington is focused on this because there is a belief that Washington might be able to get something done on this issue.”

He said that anything more far-reaching around gun control or gun safety will run into opposition almost immediately and not just from right-wing politicians. There are Democrats who are also strict Second Amendment supporters.

The other part of the debate is whether the guns are actually weapons and protected by the amendment.

“Remember this is a kit,” Smith said, “Are kits and parts of weapons protected by the Second Amendment? I think there is a good argument to be made that they’re not. It’s only when they’re assembled that they become shootable and deadly.”

There is a Nevada connection to the manufacturing of those kits. A company called Polymer 80 is at the center of a number of lawsuits around the production of these kits, he said.

“A lot of their kits have been sold at gun shows, where they’re even easier to obtain,” he said.

There is a federal inquiring underway into some of the company’s record-keeping. Smith also said law enforcement is finding more of these guns at crime scenes, especially in areas impacted by drugs and gangs.

In Nevada, lawmakers are looking at a bill that would increase the scrutiny on the kits and require them to have serial numbers.

“Sandra Jauregui, the October 1 survivor. She’s the assemblywoman pushing this through and it’s really a test, I think, of just how strong and cohesive the progressives’ message is on this gun safety issue,” he said.

Smith said people may be looking at this issue not as gun control, because they’re not really weapons, but as manufacturing going too far and not being responsible enough.

“The idea that it only makes common sense that if a weapon has to have a serial number, then a kit that results in creating a weapon ought to have a serial number as well,” he said.

Smith believes this issue might communicate across political lines – but he admits “we’ll have to see how it goes.”


“Nye County is becoming ground zero for the anti-mask phenomenon in politics,” Smith said.

He said as the mask mandates lift the rhetoric from this group is actually getting louder.

“You would wonder – what is there to shout about?” Smith quipped, “This is basically a political football, and they don’t want to go home yet.”

The fascinating thing about the ongoing debate is that this fight seems to be drawing a crowd, he said.

Smith explained that much of the rhetoric against wearing a mask and statements of freedom are coming from the Nye County Commission. He said much of the talking points bandied about in these meetings have come from Fox News and from the “far-end of the internet.”

“I definitely think that this is an issue that lends itself well to conspiracy theory, theories of control, of a person’s mind, and voters and fraudulent votes,” he said, “That Big Brother is watching.”

Smith said there is a base of support for the kind rhetoric coming out of Nye County Commission meetings, and as long there is a base of support, “there will be people out there to stoke that fire.”

He said Nye County isn’t the only one. There are other rural counties in the state where the anti-mask narrative has traction.

But Smith notes, there is no pushback from the state GOP on those ideas.

John L. Smith, contributor

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Joe Schoenmann joined Nevada Public Radio in 2014. He works with a talented team of producers at State of Nevada who explore the casino industry, sports, politics, public health and everything in between.