Washington, D.C. — On Friday, the U.S. Department of Justice announced a proposed rule change to modernize and clarify definitions pertaining to firearms, which is used by the federal government in enforcing existing laws.
The proposals are aimed squarely at curbing the proliferation of so-called ghost guns, a term used to describe thousands of dangerous firearms that are assembled at home using readily-available parts and kits that can be purchased without a background check. These guns are currently not required to be marked with a serial number or other identifiable information, making them effectively untraceable when they are used in the commission of a violent crime.
The proposed rule change would implement a long-overdue update to some of the key definitions in existing law to ensure effective implementation and enforcement of current law. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives has long interpreted the word firearm to mean only fully finished firearms, frames, and receivers—leaving a loophole that the gun industry has long exploited.
In response to the proposed rule change, Chelsea Parsons, vice president for Gun Violence Prevention at the Center for American Progress, issued the following statement:
Law enforcement across the country have sounded the alarm about the dramatic rise in the use of ghost guns to commit horrific acts of violence, including by some of the most dangerous, violent anti-government extremists groups. For far too long, the gun industry has been allowed to manipulate both the letter and the spirit of current federal law and innovate around basic legal restrictions designed to keep our communities safe from gun violence and ensure that gun-related crimes can be promptly solved. I applaud the Biden administration for taking swift action to address this emerging problem as part of its comprehensive approach to addressing the public health crisis of gun violence.
The implications of this rule change would have a significant impact on reducing the availability of ghost guns and mitigating the harm they cause to communities. If implemented, it would subject the sale of gun parts and kits to the same background check requirements as fully assembled guns, and it would require manufacturers to affix traceable serial numbers to these products, providing an additional tool for law enforcement officials to trace the ownership of guns recovered at a crime scene.
Related: “Frequently Asked Questions About Ghost Guns”
For more information on ghost guns or to speak with an expert, please contact Adam Peck at gro.ssergorpnacirema@kcepa.