Tracing Ghost Guns 

August 23, 2022

Ghost guns are untraceable firearms that can currently be bought online and assembled at home by people who would otherwise not be able to legally buy a gun. This will change on August 24, 2022 when a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives final rule will subject sellers and buyers of ghost guns to the same federal laws as sellers and buyers of other firearms, including serialization and background checks.   

In 2021 Assistant Professor Alex McCourt, with funding from the Initiative, set out to analyze newly accessible data about ghost guns and to educate the public about them. He found that ghost guns are growing in number and in usage but are still a relatively small share of overall guns used in crime and violence. However, the share of crime guns that are ghost guns are expected to increase. The good news is that Dr. McCourt foresees that once the federal rule goes into place, ghost gun regulation will make it more difficult for these guns to circulate freely.  

Dr. McCourt has been working to educate the public about ghost guns. He has joined the Public Health on Call podcast, JHU Hub, and talked to members of the media, including the Baltimore Sun, NPR, The Washington Post, ABCNews, and Along with his colleague, Rebecca Williams, he secured additional funding from the Initiative to develop a webinar on ghost guns (hosted in June 2021) and educational videos on firearm basics and ghost guns. He also developed a Live Talk Lecture Presentation for Crafting Effective Solutions to Gun Violence, a JHSPH 4th Term Problem-Solving Course.  

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