U.S. President Joe Biden announced his administration’s efforts to regulate so-called ghost guns on Monday, including banning the manufacturing of kits that consumers can assemble themselves to make a gun that lacks a serial number, making it untraceable. Gun rights groups pledged to fight the rule.
“Law enforcement is sounding the alarm,” Biden said at a White House event as he held a ghost gun. “Our communities are paying the price.”
“A year ago this week, standing here with many of you, I instructed the attorney general to write a regulation that would rein in the proliferation of ghost guns, because I was having trouble getting anything passed in the Congress,” Biden said.
The new Justice Department rule will require that the kits feature serial numbers that law enforcement can use to track weapons used in crimes, that sellers be federally licensed and that background checks be conducted on buyers.
Any store that obtains an existing ghost gun must also give it a serial number.
Another part of the new rule addresses guns made with split receivers to ensure they are covered by regulations requiring serial numbers and background checks. The receiver is the part of a gun to which other parts, such as the barrel and trigger, attach.
Another section requires gun sellers that were previously allowed to destroy most records after 20 years to now retain the information until they close their businesses. A shop that closes down will then transfer the records to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, known as the ATF.
The Justice Department says that in 2021, law enforcement agencies reported 20,000 suspected ghost guns recovered during criminal investigations, 10 times as many as in 2016.
Gun Owners of America, a gun rights advocacy group, vowed it would immediately fight the rule.
“Just as we opposed the Trump Administration’s arbitrary ban on bump stocks, GOA will also sue Biden’s ATF to halt the implementation of this rule,” Aidan Johnston, the group’s director of federal affairs, said in a statement. The group believes the rule violates the U.S. Constitution and several federal laws.
But the gun safety group Everytown called the new rules necessary.
“Ghost guns look like a gun. They shoot like a gun, and they kill like a gun. But up until now, they haven’t been regulated like a gun,” said John Feinblatt, the organization’s president of gun safety.
During the event, Biden also formally announced his choice of Steve Dettelbach as ATF director, a post that requires Senate confirmation.
Biden’s first choice for the position, gun control advocate David Chipman, withdrew from consideration in the face of both Democratic and Republican opposition.
Some information in this report comes from The Associated Press.