National Security

DOJ proposes crackdown on 'ghost guns' following Biden pledge

The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Friday took aim at "ghost guns," proposing to close a loophole that allows people to avoid background checks as they purchase guns without serial numbers.

A proposed rule from the Biden administration expands the definition of a firearm to include weapons that can be assembled at home.

The homemade weapons allow those barred from owning a firearm to skirt background checks, but the assembly kits' parts also lack a serial number, making it difficult to trace guns that have been used in crimes.

The process not only allows those barred from owning a firearm to create their own weapon, but the kits also lack a serial number, making it difficult to trace guns that have been used in crimes.

"We are committed to taking commonsense steps to address the epidemic of gun violence that takes the lives of too many people in our communities," Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.

"Criminals and others barred from owning a gun should not be able to exploit a loophole to evade background checks and to escape detection by law enforcement. 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. 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."

The proposal is the first major action the Biden administration has taken on guns since President Biden in late March called on Congress to ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines and close various background check loopholes.

The effort came after a cluster of mass shootings, including one in which a gunman killed 10 people at a grocery store in Boulder, Colo.

"They've offered plenty of thoughts and prayers ... but they've passed not a single new federal law to reduce gun violence," Biden said at a Rose Garden ceremony in April alongside Garland. "Enough prayers. Time for some action."

If finalized, DOJ's rule would expand what qualifies as a firearm, and those selling firearm kits would be required to perform background checks before sales.

Manufacturers and firearm dealers would also be required to "have a serial number added to 3D printed guns or other un-serialized firearms they take into inventory."

Groups have 90 days to comment on the proposal.

According to the Justice Department, some 23,000 guns without serial numbers were recovered by law enforcement at crime scenes, including 325 in connection with homicides or attempted homicides.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) said the proposed rule could "destroy the American firearms industry."

Lawmakers, however, couched the effectiveness of just one new regulation.

"The proposed rule would do nothing to address violent crime while further burdening law-abiding gun owners and the lawful firearm industry with overbroad regulations," NRA spokesman Lars Dalseide said in a statement.

"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," Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a leading gun reform advocate, wrote on Twitter.

"This rule will not stop anyone who is legally allowed to own a firearm from purchasing one or building one. It will simply allow law enforcement to trace crime guns & take action against those who are using this loophole to stockpile weapons they are not legally allowed to have," he added.

-Updated at 5:50 p.m.

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