Mayor Muriel Bowser on Friday announced emergency legislation to combat illegal firearms in the District.
Permanent legislation, to come later, would attempt to also hold manufacturers accountable, giving victims of ghost gun violence an avenue to sue the manufacturer.
Two types of ghost guns exist, said Metropolitan Police Department Chief Peter Newsham, pointing out that assembling them is not a hobby.
One is manufactured by 3D printers with non-metal materials, can’t be picked up by metal detectors and doesn’t have a serial number, Chief Newsham said. MPD has not recovered any ghost guns of this type.
The second are firearms that are delivered in kits to be assembled without the use of serious machinery, and also are without serial numbers.
“By law, licensed gun manufacturers are required to engrave identifying information, a serial number, on the weapons and distributors must record transfer of the firearm to the purchasers,” Chief Newsham said. “When that doesn’t happen and these ghost guns show up on crime scene, that presents a problem.”
MPD has seen a jump in the number of ghost guns recovered in the District. The police recovered three ghost guns in 2017, 25 ghost guns in 2018 and 116 last year. This year, the department has recovered 38, on track to surpass 2019.
Four ghost guns are tied to homicides and another was used to almost kill MPD reserve officers at a 7-Eleven convenience store on Hawaii Avenue, the chief said.
The penalty for possessing a ghost gun is up to one year in prison for the misdemeanor and up to 10 years in prison if the user has prior convictions, said Council member Charles Allen, Ward 6 Democrat.
“The message we are sending with this legislation is simple. If you assist with, participate in or profit from bloodshed in our community, we will hold you accountable,” Miss Bowser said at a press conference.
As part of its #GunsDownDC campaign, MPD is offering a cash reward of up to $2,500 for a tip leading to an arrest and seizure of an illegal gun and a reward of up to $10,000 for a tip leading to an arrest and conviction in a shooting.