What are ghost guns? Biden to unveil new rules on untraceable homemade firearms

Biden’s latest proposed action comes over a year after he promised to implement new regulations on ghost guns

<p>File photo of a gun suppressor at WEX Gunworks in Delray Beach, Florida. US President Joe Biden aims to restrict proliferation of ghost guns in the country </p>

File photo of a gun suppressor at WEX Gunworks in Delray Beach, Florida. US President Joe Biden aims to restrict proliferation of ghost guns in the country

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President Joe Biden, facing renewed pressure to fulfil his promises of action on gun control, is set to unveil new regulations to curb the spread of so-called “ghost guns” amid rising crime across the country.

Inside sources told the Associated Press that the Justice Department is preparing to reveal its long-awaited new rules on untraceable homemade firearms as soon as Monday, 11 April.

Those rules are expected to feature a change to the federal legal definition of a firearm to include unfinished parts, such as the “80 per cent complete” receivers that are often sold as the final component of a home ghost gun kit.

It comes a year after Mr Biden signed six executive orders targeting gun violence and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) proposed to require those who make and sell ghost gun parts to be licensed by the federal government, add serial numbers to their products, and run background checks on some customers.

What are ghost guns?

Ghost guns are weapons without serial numbers, and therefore untraceable by law enforcement.

They are generally bought online as components, such as unfinished frames and receivers, and assembled at home. Because such weapons are not manufactured by a licensed manufacturer or importer, but rather made by an individual, they are almost impossible to control.

Experts have noted that ghost guns are increasingly being used by criminals and others who are legally prohibited from buying guns as their weapon of choice, since there is a lack of federal regulation governing their sale.

According to the Justice Department, nearly 24,000 ghost guns found at crime scenes were reported to the federal government between 2016 and 2020. Untold numbers of other guns were never reported because local law enforcement agents could not trace them.

According to the Brady Plan — whose mission is to reduce gun violence by 25 per cent by 2025 — the problem of ghost guns is “haunting”. These guns are often sold explicitly through “ghost gun kits.”

These kits often have everything necessary to put together a functioning firearm at home. “The ghost gun kits are often sold either online or at gun shows throughout the country,” it said.  

What has Biden done?

Since he took office, Democrats have demanded that Mr Biden to grant federal agents greater authority to regulate do-it-yourself ghost guns.

On 8 April 2021, Mr Biden gave a powerful speech condemning America’s gun violence as an “international embarrassment” as he signed six executive actions to combat the crisis.

One action ordered the Justice Department to issue a rule within 30 days to stop the proliferation of so-called “ghost guns” created with “buy, build, shoot” kits.

He also unveiled an ATF regulation that would impose background checks and other requirements for online sales of ghost guns - which has yet to be finalised more than a year later.

On 25 March, 128 Democratic lawmakers penned a letter demanding that Mr Biden take action on three fronts - including the finalisation of that regulation.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D - New York) made the latest call for action on Sunday, saying: “It’s high time for a ghost gun exorcism before the proliferation peaks, and before more people get hurt – or worse.

“My message is a simple one: no more waiting on these proposed federal rules.... these guns are too easy to build, too hard to trace, and too dangerous to be allowed.”

However, any new action is likely to face resistance after Mr Biden was forced to withdraw his nomination of a gun control advocate to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in the face of resistance from Republicans in Congress.

At least 38,000 people die from gun violence every year in the US.

In a report published in 2020 and titled, Untraceable: The Rising Specter of Ghost Guns, by Everytown Research and Policy, it was mentioned that the Covid-19 pandemic created a historic spike in gun sales across the country. It said: “Panic buying at gun stores is concerning enough, but at least these sales are subject to a background check. Unfortunately, the online market for unserialised ghost guns has reached epidemic levels during this national emergency.”

The report found that there was an “exceptionally high demand” for ghost guns during the pandemic. “Based on the findings of the report, among those buyers are certain to be felons, domestic abusers, and gun traffickers who are unlawfully seeking a gun during this crisis.”

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