The Justice Department has unveiled a proposed rule to crack down on so-called “ghost guns” — weapons built with homemade firearms kits — by requiring the kit manufacturers to include a serial number on the weapon.
The proposal makes good on one of President Biden’s campaign promises to stop the rising popularity of ghost guns. Such weapons lack serial numbers because they were assembled from a kit, thus making it impossible for investigators to trace them.
“This proposed rule would help keep guns out of the wrong hands and make it easier for law enforcement to trace guns used to commit violent crimes while protecting the rights of law-abiding Americans,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.
“Although this rulemaking will solve only one aspect of the problem, we have an obligation to do our part to keep our families and our neighborhoods safe from gun violence,” Mr. Garland continued.
More than 23,000 weapons without serial numbers were seized by law enforcement between 2016 and 2020, the Justice Department said. Those weapons were identified in connection with 325 homicides or attempted homicides, according to Justice Department statistics.
Under the rule, gun kit manufacturers would be required to include a serial number on the firearm’s “frame or receiver.” It would also set out requirements for licensed firearm dealers to have a serial number added to 3D-printed guns or other weapons without serial numbers they take into inventory.
The rule would also make it clear that retailers must run background checks before selling kits that contain parts to make a gun at home.
“Criminals and others barred from owning a gun should not be able to exploit a loophole to evade background checks and escape detection from law enforcement,” Mr. Garland said.
Currently, it is legal to build a gun at home or in a workshop with ready-made kits that can be purchased online without the background check required for traditional gun purchases.
The proposed rule entered the federal register on Friday, which began a 30-to-60-day review period for public comment.
Law enforcement officials have long complained that loopholes in federal gun laws have allowed felons and others prohibited from owning a gun to make one themselves.
In the wake of several deadly mass shootings, Democrats had begun ramping up pressure on Mr. Biden to take action on ghost guns. Mr. Biden announced last month the Justice Department had 30 days to propose a rule aimed at curbing the use of ghost guns.
Democrats and gun-control groups immediately hailed the Justice Department’s action.
“This new rule will help stop a surging menace of homemade, untraceable deadly weapons. It’s a historic step in applying presidential power against gun violence,” tweeted Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut Democrat. “This rule will not stop anyone who is legally allowed to own a firearm from purchasing one or building one.”
“This proposed rule is a huge win for public safety and a huge loss for any criminals or extremists who wanted to buy untraceable guns with no background check and no questions asked,” Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, said in a statement.
“Ghost guns may be the scariest and fastest-growing gun safety threat in the country, allowing anyone to make an untraceable weapon in less than an hour,” she continued. “Stopping the proliferation of these guns will save lives, and the President’s swift and decisive action on this is further proof of his commitment to building the strongest gun safety administration in history.”
The Justice Department is also working on a separate rule on the use of stabilizing braces that can make a pistol more accurate.
That proposal is expected to be announced soon.