Biden cracks down on hard-to-trace ‘ghost guns’

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The use of such weapons has increased, nearly doubling to over 19,000 from 2020 to 2021. (Pixabay pic)

AFP

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden will announce new measures cracking down on so-called “ghost guns” on Monday, with an executive order set to increase restrictions on the weapons that can be assembled at home in minutes and are difficult to trace as they lack serial numbers.

The new rule, a year in the making, addresses a kind of weapon that law enforcement officials say has almost doubled in its appearance in police reports between 2020 and 2021.

“These are the criminal’s weapon of choice,” a Biden administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said.

The new rule states that weapons part kits that can easily be assembled into a working firearm will be subject to the same requirements as commercially available fully assembled guns, administration officials said.

Dealers selling these weapons parts kits will now be required to conduct a background check on prospective buyers, according to the new regulations.

Gun kit manufacturers must also include a serial number on key weapon components, while licensed dealers who take a “ghost gun” into their inventory must add a serial number, the US Justice Department said in a statement.

Finally, in order to boost tracing efforts, the new rule states that federally licensed dealers of firearms must keep records for as long as they are in business, rather than for a 20-year period as is currently the case.

“This rule will make it harder for criminals and other prohibited persons to obtain untraceable guns, will help ensure that law enforcement officers can retrieve the information they need to solve crimes, and will help reduce the number of untraceable firearms flooding our communities,” said US attorney general Merrick Garland.

From January 2016 to December 2021, the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) received approximately 45,240 reports of suspected privately made firearms recovered by law enforcement, the Justice Department said. Those reports were linked to at least 692 homicide or attempted homicide investigations, it added.

The use of such weapons has been increasing, with the number of reports nearly doubling to more than 19,000 from 2020 to 2021, it said.

Over the past five-year period, the ATF could only trace 0.98% of suspected “ghost guns” handed in by law enforcement to an individual purchaser, the department said.

On Monday, the White House said that Biden will also nominate Steve Dettelbach, a former US attorney from Ohio, to run the ATF after the president’s first nominee, a gun control advocate, ran into opposition from Republicans and some Democrats in Congress.