This week, while perched upon the blazing dumpster fire which constitutes the state of Illinois, Governor J.B. (Please Re-elect Me) Pritzker, signed House Bill 4384 into law making Illinois the first Midwest state to ban federally allowed home-built guns from polymer or aluminum receivers which do not have a federally registered serial number.
This purported anti-crime measure pushed by Chi-town legislators, comes at a time when violent crime is rampant, and Chicago is the shooting capital of the world. Five months into this year 1099 humans have been shot in Chicago and 209 shot and killed. This is on track to double last year’s total figures of 1191 shot and 275 shot and killed in 12 months. Someone is shot in Chicago this year on average every 3:03 minutes and murdered every 14 hours and 30 minutes. Thanks Heyjackass.com for the stats. An average summer night in Chi-town kills and wounds more people than other “tragedies” and headline grabbing shooting sprees seen in the rest of the nation during the rest of the year.
The baseline claim presented to ban all non-serialized and home-built guns, is if all guns have registered serial numbers, then when they are seized by police, they can be traced back to original owners. This claim is of course built upon a series of faulty concepts like:
1. Tons of “Ghost Guns” are being seized – local records show only between 1-3% seized in Chicago last year did not have serial numbers…and it did not identify how many of those items were used in crimes, or how many were guns which had serial numbers scratched off vice guns built from 80% completion kits.
2. Criminals leave guns behind at crime scenes and Police trace and prosecute. Criminals don’t leave guns if they can avoid it. Thousands of gun traces are run each year with very few prosecutions initiated. The only data I could find online from ATF for Illinois was from 2016 and showed over 12,000 traces run that year with only 321 being tied to homicides or attempted homicides- or 2.675%
3. Criminals obtain guns legally, and if a gun is registered it can be tracked back to them. They don’t purchase guns legally. The vast majority of guns used to facilitate crimes are stolen, obtained from family, from other gang members or straw purchased.
4. Ghost Guns are rampant on the streets. CNN said Chicago had 12,088 guns seized last year, and 455 were Ghost guns-3.76%. The number actually used in crimes were not reported versus the number merely seized, or whether they merely had the serial numbers scratched off.
The new law, 720 ILCS 5/24-5.1, is a great piece of very obvious gun control legislation. It bans guns. Period. Guns which were formerly legal to purchase, build and own under state and federal law. The law lays out an owner in current possession of a home built, non-serialized gun has six months to either purchase a new frame which has a serial number, destroy the existing frame, turn the old frame in to the police, or get the old frame serialized and registered with a Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL). The hook in it, is the requirements as stated to update the frame into compliance by engraving-are impossible to meet and may be the foundation for Constitutional challenges to this law.
Hook #1. The law says an owner must get the gun engraved with a specific and registered serial number by a FFL. Sounds doable right? Internet research for gun stores or FFL’s in Illinois who would engrave and record serial numbers on these frames-none are found. Zero. One such engraver was found in Florida, but if a frame had been drilled or worked on by the owner, they would not accept it for engraving. It reminds one of the time back in 2007 and 2013 when the California legislature voted to require all CA guns to be equipped with a firing pin which would micro-stamp a serial number onto cartridge primers when fired- ultra modern idea, (surprised then CA AG Kamala Harris found it good to go?) but only one such company in the US made such a device, the sole patent holder said it was not commercially ready or viable, and can be scraped off by sandpaper or a nail file. Not surprisingly California has brought it back in 2020 as part of their slow roll to banning all handgun sales in the state that do not meet their stringent requirements.
Hook #2. Deeper into the law is a provision which requires the engraving of these receivers to be made on a permanent and unremovable steel plate. (Similar to current Sig, Smith and Wesson, Springfield Armory polymer framed pistols made with a steel plate embedded in the frame.) Well the hook to this provision, is almost all of the targeted non-serialized frames in question are made solely of polymer plastic. They don’t come with engravable steel plates embedded in them-and you can’t install one that would be permanent or meet the letter of the law. If you just engraved on the plastic it could be melted off. So these formerly legal guns will become illegal with no way to make them legal despite 8 pages of law talking about how to do it.
Hook #3. Signing this law will make thousands of legally possessed guns illegal, and potentially turn thousands of legal gun owners who have never been involved in a crime into criminals. There is no grandfather clause to cover guns already legally made under state and federal law. The White House and BATF announced new rules related to this type of home built kits last month and changes kick in during August of this year- but they only address new kits and frames to be built in the future requiring serial numbers and federal registration. They do not address current guns.
Hook #4. The law states the Illinois State Police will publish public notice of the new law on their web site 30 days from 18 May 2022-and list all known services and businesses who are available to inscribe the old frames and do the federal recording of those numbers- treating the frames like entire firearms. Chances of the state police doing anything in 30 days would probably qualify as a miracle, and even if they did, as cited above, there are no known current Illinois based businesses who would be able to take on this task.
Hook #5. How many legal non-serialized guns currently exist within the state of Illinois? No one knows. The build it yourself kits have never required federal record keeping and no statistics have ever been kept-it was kind of the point of the issue, under the federal law people could create their own gun for their own use and not sell or transfer it. These kits have been selling like hot cakes for at least the last five years and it was legal, moral and ethical to do so. There may have easily been one million unfinished pistol and AR receivers sold in the U.S. If you divide that number by 50 states, then you might have just made 20,000 guns illegal in just Illinois. Sure looks like straight up gun control. This would be more guns banned at one time than with possibly any other law ever signed in the United States.
National news saw the Illinois legislature passing this onerous bill in the middle of the night last month, and also remarked upon it’s signing into law this week. Review of several Pro-Gun websites do not as yet mention any anticipated challenges to this law.