The manufacture, possession and sale of unserialized firearms and firearm parts, colloquially known as ghost guns, is now banned in Colorado under a bill signed into law Friday by Gov. Jared Polis.
Senate Bill 279, which went into effect as soon as it was signed, makes it a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to 364 days in jail, to violate the ban. Subsequent offenses are a Class 5 felony, punishable by up to three years in prison.
Polis called ghost guns a “deadly loophole” to all of the state’s other gun laws.
“We want to make sure that we can crack down on those who might seek to undermine the safety guardrails around guns,” he said during a ceremony at the governor’s mansion in downtown Denver.
Ghost guns have played a role in a number of recent, high-profile shootings in Colorado, including the November attack on Club Q in Colorado Springs and the March shooting at East High School, where a student wounded two administrators. But police and prosecutors say the weapons are appearing in an increasing number of crimes across the state.
Ghost guns can be made at home with 3-D printers and are untraceable. They let people avoid Colorado’s universal background check system.
“A few years ago, I could not open up my email and find anything about ghost guns,” said 18th Judicial District Attorney John Kellner, a Republican who supported the bill. “Now, it’s a near daily occurrence. It’s juveniles. It’s convicted felons. It’s domestic violence abusers — people who are circumventing a robust background check system to get their hands on guns that they otherwise would not be able to possess.”
Kellner said law-abiding citizens can still legally make ghost guns. “You just have to do the background check and everybody else,” he said.
People who possess unserialized guns or gun parts have until Jan. 1 to get their weapons serialized by a firearms dealer, a process that includes a background check.
Senate Bill 279 was sponsored by four Democrats: Sens. Rhonda Fields and Chris Hansen and Reps. Andrew Boesenecker and Junie Joseph. Republicans in the legislature opposed the measure on Second Amendment grounds, arguing that it infringes on people’s constitutional rights.
The Colorado legislature passed four other major bills regulating guns this year.
The measures impose a three-day waiting period for all gun purchases, raise the minimum age for buying guns to 21 and expand Colorado’s red flag law to let teachers, prosecutors and medical professionals also petition a judge to order the temporary seizure of someone’s guns. The fourth piece of legislation also makes it easier to sue the gun industry.