WASHINGTON-President Joe Biden will announce new federal regulations on Monday to rein in the use of untraceable firearms known as ghost guns that law-enforcement officers say are turning up frequently at crime scenes across the country.
The new rules, which Biden and Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco will announce during a Rose Garden ceremony, will target privately made firearms that can be assembled from do-it-yourself kits purchased online or in a store. The weapons contain no serial number, which makes it difficult to trace the owner.
Senior administration officials, who briefed reporters ahead of Biden’s announcement, said Sunday the new rules will clarify that the unfinished parts sold in the kits, such as the fame of a handgun or the receiver of a long gun, will qualify as firearms under federal law .
Commercial manufacturers of the kits will have to be licensed and must add serial numbers on the kits’ frame or receiver. Commercial sellers of the kits also will have to become licensed and will be required to run background checks on potential buyers prior to a sale, just like they must do with commercially made firearms.
In a related move, Biden will also announce that he is nominating Steve Dettelbach, a former US attorney from Ohio, to serve as director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The federal agency, known as the ATF, is responsible for enforcing the nation’s gun laws.
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Biden withdrew his first nominee for the job, gun-control advocate David Chipman, in September after the nomination stalled for months because of opposition from Republicans and some Democrats in the Senate.
Biden’s decision to take aim at ghost guns comes amid growing concern about the rise of gun violence and increasing pressure from Democrats in Congress to crack down on gun deaths and violent crime.
The ATF proposed a new rule last May that would change the federal definition of a firearm to include the parts used to make ghost guns. The rule has been making its way through the federal regulatory process for nearly a year. Monday’s announcement will note that the agency has issued the final rule.
In addition to the new regulations, Biden will call on Congress to ban the sale and possession of ghost guns.
Biden’s actions are expected to face strong resistance from the gun lobby.
Even before the new regulations were announced, gun-rights group Gun Owners of America said Sunday it would immediately sue to halt the new rules, which it said violated the Second Amendment. Aidan Johnston, the group’s director of federal affairs, accused Biden of trying to create a national gun registry and end the online sale of gun parts without passage of a new law.
The group called on Congress to block the implementation of the rule by using the Congressional Review Act, which allows lawmakers to overturn rules issued by federal agencies.
Gun-control advocates praised the new regulations.
“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, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, which pushes for gun control and against gun violence.
Feinblatt applauded the administration “for doubling down on its commitment to gun safety by taking action to rein in ghost guns and nominating an ATF director who will end its culture of complicity with the gun industry.”
Law-enforcement officials across the country have expressed concern about the rise in use of ghost guns in crimes. Last year alone, some 20,000 ghost guns were recovered by law enforcement in criminal investigations, a ten-fold increase from 2016, the Justice Department said.
As the number of crimes involving ghost guns has jumped in several parts of the US, some states, like California, have enacted laws to require serial numbers to be stamped on firearms. Some municipalities also are firing back with lawsuits and other legal challenges that accuse manufacturers of violating laws and undermining law enforcement.
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The new regulations Biden will announce Monday also will take steps to see that serial numbers are added to ghost guns already in circulation.
The Justice Department will require licensed dealers and gunsmiths taking any unserialized firearm into inventory to add a serial number to that weapon.
For example, if someone builds a firearm at home and then sells it to a pawnbroker or another licensed dealer, that dealer must add a serial number to the weapon before selling it to a customer. The requirement will apply regardless of how the firearm was made, whether it’s assembled from individual parts, kits, or by 3D-printers.
Licensed firearms dealers also will be required to keep records until they shut down their business. The records then must be transferred to the ATF, just as they are currently required to do. Previously, dealers were permitted to destroy most records after 20 years.
Follow Michael Collins on Twitter @mcollinsNEWS.
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George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism