HARRISBURG, Pa. (ErieNewsNow) - This week, Governor Tom Wolf announced a new regulation from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is in effect throughout the commonwealth. 

According to a Wednesday press release from the ATF, the new rule “modernizes the definition of a firearm and makes clear that parts kits that are readily convertible to functional weapons, or functional ‘frames’ or ‘receivers’ of weapons, are subject to the same regulations as traditional firearms.” 

In Pennsylvania, federally licensed firearms dealers that sell or distribute partially completed frames or receivers (PCFRs) are now required to conduct background checks before selling or transferring those parts. 

The receiver of a firearm houses the internal firing component. Using PCFRs, guns that are not serialized and often untraceable, can be built at home. They’re known as ghost guns, and they’re a rising safety concern for the United States, especially Pennsylvania. 

“Gun deaths are at an all-time high across the nation and right here in Pennsylvania,” said Gov. Wolf. “We can prevent some of this tragedy by keeping weapons out of the hands of those who can’t pass a background check. If you can’t pass a background check to purchase a fully assembled gun, you also won’t be able to purchase the PCFRs to build your own gun at home. This is long overdue, and we’re ready to implement this rule in Pennsylvania immediately,” Wolf added. 

In the first year of tracking, Philadelphia recorded 95 seizures and recoveries of ghost guns in 2019. That number jumped to 250 in 2020, and then more than doubled to 571 in 2021.  

The Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) officially began tracking ghost guns at crime scenes in 2021, where they recorded 24 seizures and recoveries for the year. As of this month, PSP and Philadelphia have recorded a combined 334 seizures and recoveries in 2022. 

“My office has been sounding the alarm on ghost guns and how they’re becoming the weapon of choice for criminals for years. We tried, through a legal opinion from our office, to implement background checks for these untraceable weapons in 2019 but were quickly blocked from doing so by litigation from the gun lobbies,” said Attorney General Josh Shapiro. “For years convicted felons, violent drug dealers, have all been able to buy these guns at gun shows without a background check. With these new federal regulations taking effect, we are making it harder for gun kits to end up in the hands of criminals and easier for law enforcement to track crime guns in their investigations. All this helps make Pennsylvania communities safer,” Shapiro added. 

The new requirement to conduct background checks before selling or transferring parts will be completed by the PSP.