New Biden administration guidance closes ‘ghost guns’ loophole in federal rule

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) issued an open letter to federal firearms dealers on Tuesday saying a rule that went into effect in August applies to certain partially completed pistol frames and parts kits, subjecting them to regulation. 

The August rule from the Department of Justice subjected gun kits to regulation and provided regulatory definitions for terms such as “complete weapon” and “readily.”

Tuesday’s letter stated that the “definition of ‘readily’ applies to each and every classification of a partially complete frame or receiver under this Rule, whether sold alone or as part of a kit. Therefore, even without any associated templates, jigs, molds, equipment, tools, instructions, guides, or marketing materials, these partially complete pistol frames are ‘frames’ and also ‘firearms’ as defined in the GCA [Gun Control Act] and its implementing regulations.”

The rule requires the relevant firearm frames to have serial numbers and to be sold by licensed dealers who run background checks.

“Today’s open letter is another important step in implementing the crucial public safety rule regarding privately made firearms, or Ghost Guns,” ATF Director Steven Dettelbach said in an ATF news release. “Ghost Guns can kill like other firearms if they are in the wrong hands, so they are treated as firearms under the law.” 

In October, 14 Democratic senators sent a letter to the Justice Department and ATF requesting they issue enforcement guidance for the August rule, saying that companies selling near-complete frames and receivers without tools or instructions for completion were considering their products outside the scope of the new rule.

According to the August rule, from the beginning of 2016 to the end of 2021, “there were approximately 45,240 suspected PMFs [privately made firearms] reported to ATF as having been recovered by law enforcement from potential crime scenes, including 692 homicides or attempted homicides (not including suicides), and which ATF attempted to trace.”

Congress passed major gun legislation in 2022 as well. In June, President Biden signed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which expanded background checks for people under 21, addressed the “boyfriend loophole” with a provision barring firearm possession for at least five years for those convicted of misdemeanor violent crimes against romantic partners and included funding for mental health treatment and the administration of red flag laws.

Tags ATF Biden Federal rule ghost guns

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