In what could be a harbinger of national policy, the Associated Press reported Oct. 7 the Democratic governors of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, and New York have signed a 10-page agreement to share gun-crime information.
The White House press secretary’s office immediately praised the agreement. “This data-sharing agreement recognizes the reality that firearms cross state lines, and we therefore need a multijurisdictional approach to tackling gun violence.”
The unsigned White House statement continued, “We encourage other state and local officials to follow these Governors' lead and collaborate to reduce our shared challenge of gun violence.”
Governors Go on Record
Gov. Kathy Hochul of New York echoed the White House's position, “If Congress would simply allow us to share this nationally, what a better place this would be.”
“We have got to work together in ways that we have not before,” Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf explained.”
Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont stated, “If you're not taking guns seriously, you're not taking law and order seriously.”
Gov. Phil Murphy reported that about 85% of guns recently confiscated by police in New Jersey come from other states. “Our individual states' gun laws are only as good as those in the rest of our neighborhood,” he said.
Data Sharing and Privacy
In addition to sharing out-of-state gun purchase data with each other, the four states will access the “eTrace” database of the federal Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives Bureau. The ATF collects data on guns recovered from crime investigations.
The four-state agreement, which is renewable every five years, stipulates that only law enforcement personnel can access the data. Additionally, the data may only be stored on computer systems dedicated to criminal justice.
Ghost Guns Targeted
One of the top priorities of the four-state consortium will be tracking the sale, purchase, and illegal interstate traffic of “ghost guns.” These firearms can range from simple handguns to assault rifles. Ghost guns can easily be assembled from do-yourself kits. They have no serial numbers, which makes them almost impossible to trace. Assembled weapons are bought and sold on the black market without background checks.
Ghost gun kits are still legal under federal law because they are not considered firearms. That would change, however, under proposed Rule 2021R-05 of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). The rule would define kits as firearms and require serial numbers and other traceable markings on the critical gun components.
Ghost guns are legal in Pennsylvania, but New Jersey and Connecticut have already banned such guns. Gov. Hochul signed a legislative package on Oct. 28 that makes the sale, purchase, and possession of ghost guns and kits felonies in New York effective Jan. 6, 2022.
Gun Rights and Responsibilities
Gun regulations are in a volatile state of flux at all levels of government and across jurisdictions, especially when it comes to different states. Gun owners, buyers, and sellers have the responsibility to know the laws around ghost guns, concealed weapons, or other variable firearm restrictions.
Ignorance of the law is not an excuse in a court of law. If you or someone you love has run afoul of gun laws in Pennsylvania, you'll need an experienced criminal defense attorney. Attorney Joseph D. Lento of the Lento Law Firm will fight for your rights. Call 888-535-3686 today.