Biden-Harris administration announces new rules to combat ghost guns and violent crime

The White House unveiled its plan to stop the proliferation of ghost guns with the Department of Justice.

U.S. President Joe Biden holds up a ghost gun kit during an event about gun violence in the Rose Garden of the White House April 11, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

On Monday, the Biden-Harris administration unveiled their latest plan to reduce gun crime in the United States, including an emphasis on cracking down on ghost guns. 

President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco delivered remarks announcing the new measures on the White House South Lawn.

Along with the U.S. Department of Justice, the administration issued new rules submitted to the Federal Register to ban the manufacturing of guns without serial numbers, including those easily assembled through so-called “buy build shoot” kits. The DOJ will now classify such guns as “firearms” under the Gun Control Act. 

Additionally, all federally licensed dealers and gunsmiths must add a serial number to any unserialized firearm when being added to its inventory before being sold. Doing so would help identify firearms involved in violent crimes, as without a serial number, it can be difficult to trace who purchased the firearm and where.

“Those who use weapons to do violence [is] because of how easy they are to access and how difficult they are to trace. Ghost guns pose an especially grave threat to the safety of our communities,” said Vice President Harris. “That is why as the United States senator, I was proud to co-sponsor a bill to end the manufacture and sale of ghost guns, and it is why we are here today to announce new actions to get ghost guns off our streets and to protect our communities from gun violence.”

US Vice President Kamala Harris speaks on measures to combat gun crime as US President Joe Biden, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, and Mia Tretta, a Saugus High School shooting survivor, listen from the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC on April 11, 2022. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

These latest rules expand on the administration’s comprehensive anti-crime efforts announced last June. The administration has vowed to enforce common-sense gun policy and fight gun crime.

Law enforcement has found it difficult to track and recover unserialized guns involved in criminal investigations. Biden officials contend ghost gun tracing information would provide vital leads to law enforcement in determining how a firearm recovered at a crime scene was obtained by the offender, including leads that can help identify straw purchasers and firearm trafficking organizations. 

These guns under scrutiny are found in the assembling kits, which contain all the parts needed to build a fully functioning firearm. The new rule clarifies that the buy, build and shoot ghost gun kits will be treated as the firearms that they are.  

But President Biden made clear that the steps being made by the executive branch do not “absolve” Congress from its legislative duty to enact gun reform. “We need Congress to pass universal background checks,” said the president. “I know it’s controversial but I got it done once. Ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines.”

There are no specific federal criminal statutes broadly for firearms without serial numbers. Gun regulations that apply to traditional firearms have not been updated to clarify how the Gun Control Act applies to the firearms created by modern technologies like 3-D printers. This rule clarifies that firearm regulations apply equally to commercially and privately made ghost guns. The rule also calls for background checks to purchase firearms.

Ultimately, the Biden administration is hopeful for a ban on ghost guns. But until then, these latest moves are happening just weeks into the spring season and weeks before the anticipated violent crime spike that summer normally brings. 

Ghost guns that were secured by the DC Metropolitan Police Department are on display during a press conference held by Mayor Muriel Bowser who announced a new legislation to ban the import of kits and parts used to make untraceable ghost guns that are showing up more and more on the streets in Washington, D.C., Friday, Feb. 28, 2020. (Astrid Riecken For The Washington Post via Getty Images)

TheGrio previously reported a surge in ghost guns across the country. Baltimore City Police Commissioner Michael Harrison acknowledged that Baltimore experienced such a surge. “I think, right now, there’s a transition in that the larger percentage of guns seized are ghost guns and not regularly purchased guns, which are usually stolen. And so we seize them in a number of ways,” Harrison previously told theGrio.

Former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who was tragically shot in the head in an attempted assassination at a Safeway parking lot in 2011, praised the administration’s latest efforts in combating gun crime.  

“The fight to end gun violence is long and hard and full of obstacles, but today we achieved an important victory on our path. For years, ghost guns have posed an increasingly dangerous threat to public safety,” said Giffords in a statement. 

“While a number of courageous state legislators have taken action, ATF has declined to address this growing problem while operating without confirmed, strong leadership. Today, that is changing, and our kids and communities will be safer as a result. I’m grateful to my friend Joe Biden, the Department of Justice, and ATF for putting the safety of the American people above the interests of the corporate gun lobby.”

Similarly, U.S. Congresswoman Lucy McBath of Georgia, in a statement provided to theGrio, expressed approval of the latest moves by the White House.

Rep. Lucy McBath
Rep. Lucy McBath (D-GA) questions U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland at a House Judiciary Committee hearing at the U.S. Capitol on October 21, 2021 in Washington, DC. Garland fielded many questions regarding first amendment issues related to school board meetings and efforts to prevent violence against public officials. (Photo by Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images)

“Far too many families across the country continue to feel the pain and heartbreak that comes with losing a loved one. Right now, ghost guns are the weapon of choice for many violent criminals,” said Congresswoman McBath, who was elected to Congress in 2018 after making gun reform a central part of her campaign.

“I want to thank President Biden for his actions today; he continues to understand the urgency with which we must address this epidemic. Each time I stand in support of common-sense solutions to keep our families safe, I carry with me the memories of thousands of men, women, and children – children like my son Jordan–who are no longer with us because of senseless and preventable gun violence. I am grateful for President Biden’s announcement today and his Administration’s continued efforts to stop gun violence and save American lives.”

The National Rifle Association, which is known for lobbying against certain gun reform laws, threw water on the administration’s new gun rules and instead turned to a frequently used Republican tough-on-crime talking point.

​​“An administration that’s truly sincere and resolute about curbing violent crime rates would do one thing: take violent criminals off the streets immediately. Yet, the Biden administration allows these criminals who kill and maim with callous and reckless abandon, again and again, to roam the streets of Baltimore, Philadelphia, Chicago, New York, San Francisco and other cities large and small across our country without fear of prosecution and punishment,” said the NRA in a statement. 

NRA, National Rifle Association, sign promotes membership of NRA, Texas. (Photo by: Visions of America/Joe Sohm/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

“Americans know the lenient bail system and the revolving door justice system supported and perpetrated by the Biden administration and other leaders who support soft-on-criminal policies are the problem. However, today, the president unveils yet another hollow plan that will not stop this violence. His gun control actions will undoubtedly hearten his wealthy gun control supporters. But, this action sends the wrong message to violent criminals because this “ban” will not affect them. These violent crime sprees will continue unabated until they are arrested, prosecuted and punished.” 

During his remarks on Monday, President Biden shot back at the NRA, saying, “The NRA called this rule I’m about to announce extreme…but let me ask you, is it extreme to protect police officers? Is it extreme to protect our children? Extreme to keep guns out of the hands of people who couldn’t even pass a background check? 

“The idea that someone on a terrorist list could purchase one of these guns is extreme. It isn’t extreme — it’s just basic common sense.”

Several major cities have seen a surge in violent gun crimes since the pandemic began in 2020. In some cities, the rise in gun violence continued to climb in 2021. According to the Pew Research Center, the U.S. saw the highest percentage of murders via a firearm in 2020 since at least 1968. Interestingly, however, most gun-related deaths (53%) result from suicide.

The research firm noted, “The gun murder and gun suicide rates in the U.S. both remain below their peak levels.”

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