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Biden bans ‘ghost guns’

US President Joe Biden has announced a ban on the manufacture and sale of “ghost guns,” homemade firearms whose lack of serial numbers makes them difficult to track when used in the commission of a crime. The president officially announced the new rule on Monday, rendering it illegal for a business to manufacture a firearm without a serial number.

Specifically, the rule classifies so-called “buy build shoot” kits – do-it-yourself packages that can be purchased without a background check and constructed at home – as “firearms” under the Gun Control Act, meaning makers and sellers of such kits require licenses and must perform background checks before making a sale. Another new rule requires sellers to keep records of purchasers for as long as they are in business.

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The restrictions are part of the Justice Department’s National Ghost Gun Enforcement Initiative, launched in February to prosecute those who use ghost guns in the commission of crimes. The project also aims to update the language used in gun control legislation with an eye toward shutting down the unrestricted sale of 3D-printed weapons, the plans for which are often shared online.

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The president stressed he wasn’t done tightening gun control restrictions, insisting he wanted to ban “assault weapons” and high-capacity magazines, require background checks for all gun sales, and strip gun manufacturers of protection from legal liability. He has also called for more funds for law enforcement. 

Biden also announced his appointment to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms on Monday. If confirmed by the Senate, Steve Dettelbach will become the first permanent director of the agency since 2015. He previously worked as US Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio.

The ATF has had little luck tracing ghost guns under existing legislation, according to a senior administration official, who revealed during a press briefing on Sunday that the agency had been able to trace fewer than 1% of the 45,000 such weapons recovered during investigations since December 2016. However, just 700 of those weapons were used in homicides or attempted homicides.

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The National Rifle Administration slammed the Biden administration for focusing on the weapons rather than the individuals using them to commit crimes, arguing that if the Justice Department was serious about curbing violent crime rates, it would end controversial bail reform practices in major metropolitan areas that have seen criminals released back onto the street after being apprehended by law enforcement, sometimes on the same day.

Senator John Barrasse (R-Wyoming) concurred, calling the strategy an “unconstitutional, backdoor gun grab” and demanding the Biden administration “stop defunding the police and start prosecuting criminals.” Biden has struggled to distance himself from more extremist elements of his party that became notorious for their calls to “defund the police” following the death of Minneapolis man George Floyd under the knee of a police officer and the subsequent rise of the Black Lives Matter movement.

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