A group of five Democrats in the Senate have penned a letter to YouTube demanding that it remove instructional videos showing users how to build untraceable, unregistered firearms, which have been pejoratively labeled “ghost guns” by critics.
The letter is signed by Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) (pdf).
Currently, YouTube’s terms of service prohibit users from uploading videos that show how to build firearms, ammunition, or accessories, but the five signatories say that those rules are not being enforced on the platform.
“We write to express our serious concern that YouTube continues to host videos that instruct viewers on how to make and manufacture ghost guns. This content is a clear and direct violation of YouTube’s existing Community Guidelines on firearms,” the senators wrote to YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki.
“We are alarmed that an extensive amount of this dangerous content still exists on YouTube,” the letter continues, citing YouTube’s previous meeting with members of Congress over the issue. “It appears that the steps that YouTube has taken thus far are insufficient.”
“Ghost guns,” say the senators, “are unserialized firearms that anyone can get their hands on—without a background check—and put together themselves with a 3D-printer or a do-it-yourself gun-making kit purchased from an unlicensed seller.
“It costs as little as a few hundred dollars to get the tools and parts to construct a ghost gun, and, with help from YouTube tutorial videos, can take less than an hour to put together,” the senators claim.
“As a result, ghost guns have become the weapon of choice for gun traffickers and convicted felons, as well as domestic violent extremists and foreign terrorists. Federal, state, and local law enforcement officials have sounded the alarm that these untraceable firearms present a distinct and deadly threat and have exacerbated the scourge and surge of gun violence that has ravaged communities all across the United States.
“YouTube can—and must—do more to ensure that the content it hosts does not exacerbate the threat of ghost guns,” the letter concludes.
Often these “ghost guns” are manufactured by means of 3D printers, which can be used to craft a broad variety of three-dimensional items. Weapons manufactured by 3D printers have been in Democrats’ sights for some time: during the summer of 2020, Markey introduced a bill that would have banned 3D printer schematics for firearms.
That bill ultimately died somewhere in congressional limbo, but the letter indicates that the issue has remained on Democrats’ minds.
There are also thorny legal questions surrounding these schematics, as former litigation has found that they are protected under the First Amendment.
In a statement to The Epoch Times, the pro-Second Amendment Gun Owners of America (GOA) organization criticized the effort to remove information and guides about how to build these weapons from YouTube. In a reference to former litigation, GOA argued that the effort entails not only a violation of the Second Amendment but also of the First Amendment.
“The ability to make one’s own firearm is protected by the Constitution—and has been legal on this continent going all the way back to Jamestown,” a senior GOA executive said in his statement.
“Democrat Senators are not only targeting the Second Amendment, but in trying to impose bans on certain YouTube videos, they are squelching people’s First Amendment rights, as well.”
He continued, “The war against so-called ‘ghost guns’ is a fraud. There is no evidence that registering firearms—or stamping them with serial numbers—prevents crime.”
“Virtually every ‘crime gun’ already has a serial number,” the GOA representative noted.
“And while the anti-gun Left may try to demonize these firearms by referring to them as ‘ghost guns,’ the fact remains that thousands of honest gun owners today are making their own legal guns—and 99 percent of these guns will never be used in a crime.”
President Joe Biden’s Department of Justice (DOJ) has also maintained interest in the issue. The DOJ is expected to release a new set of rules later this year to regulate these untraceable firearms, but it is not yet clear what shape those new rules will take—or how the courts will respond to regulations imposed by the DOJ rather than by Congress.