In an effort to reduce gun violence, President Joe Biden banned the manufacturing of unserialized, untraceable gun kits that are bought without the need for a background check and later assembled at home.
These so-called “ghost guns” have been recovered at several crime scenes recently. There were approximately 20,000 suspected ghost guns reported to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in 2021, according to a statement by The White House. But unlike regular guns, ghost guns don’t have a serial number etched on them, making it nearly impossible to trace the weapon back to its owner.
“Ghost guns can be purchased on the internet and assembled at a kitchen table,” Vice President Kamala Harris said during a press conference on Monday. “They can be bought without a background check by people who otherwise would be legally prohibited from gun ownership, domestic abusers, gun traffickers, individuals convicted of violent crimes, and even young children.”
The ban is targeting “buy build shoot” kits that are bought online, or through a store, and later assembled into a firearm within less than 30 minutes. The ban rule confirms that these are in fact considered to be firearms under the Gun Control Act, therefore the manufacturers of the gun kits must obtain a license to sell them, and include serial numbers on the ghost gun’s frame or receiver. Meanwhile, those selling the ghost guns are now required to conduct a background check on their customers. The Department of Justice is also seeking to serialize ghost guns that are already in circulation before being sold to another customer.
“If somebody sells the ghost gun to a federally licensed dealer, for example a pawn shop, that dealer must make the firearm and mark it with a serial number before reselling it,” Biden said during the press conference. “All of a sudden, it’s no longer ghost. It has a return address that’s going to help us reduce crime and get more criminals off the streets.” Biden also called on Congress to pass universal background checks, which would require almost all firearms transactions to be recorded and go through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).
The United States has seen a recent spike in gun violence related incidents. In 2020, more Americans died of gun-related injuries than in any other year on record, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Mass shootings also increased during the same year, with 343 mass shootings, 217 people killed and 1,498 people injured during a 15 month period between April 2020 and July 2021, according to research published in JAMA network. There were 2.2 million firearms sold in January 2021, according to Small Arms Analytics.
The Biden Administration has been under pressure to crackdown on gun violence. During an interview with Politico, Democratic Senator Chris Murphy called for “more urgency from the administration as the gun violence epidemic gets worse by the day.”
One thing that has been missing from Biden’s plan to tackle the rise in crime is having someone leading the ATF. On Monday, Biden also nominated former federal prosecutor Steve Dettelbach to serve as the agency’s new director. Biden had to withdraw his first ATF nominee David Chipman, a gun control advocate, after facing opposition from Republicans and some moderate Democrats.