Legislation

ATF goes after ‘ghost guns’ as new rule takes effect

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) announced Wednesday that its new rule going after so-called “ghost guns” has gone into effect.

The rule is intended to stop the proliferation of ghost guns — firearms privately made or put together through gun kits that are generally hard to trace.

The new rule states that firearms made from parts kits that can be readily converted into functional weapons, or the “frames” or “receivers” of weapons, are subject to the same regulations as other guns.

The new rule requires that retailers run background checks before selling parts kits that someone could use to assemble a firearm, clarifies the definition of frame or receiver and identifies which parts of the firearm must be marked with a serial number.

The rule also requires that gun retailers and gunsmiths add a serial number to guns printed on 3D printers or any nonserialized firearms they accept for resale or purchase.

The time for which gun retailers must retain records has also been increased from two decades to the entire time in which the retailers are licensed. The Justice Department noted that ATF had been unable to trace many firearms that were reportedly used in homicides and violent crime due to the destruction of records after 20 years.

“This rule will make it harder for criminals and other prohibited persons to obtain untraceable guns. It will help to ensure that law enforcement officers can retrieve the information they need to solve crimes. And it will help reduce the number of untraceable firearms flooding our communities,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.

Justice Department statistics show that nearly 24,000 ghost guns were recovered by law enforcement at crime scenes and reported to the government from 2016 to 2020. It is hard to say how many are circulating on the streets, in part because in many cases police departments don’t contact the government about the guns because they can’t be traced.

Some states, like California, have previously enacted laws in recent years to require serial numbers to be stamped on ghost guns.

Tags ATF Department of Justice DOJ frame or receiver ghost gun ghost gun retailers ghost guns ghost guns Gun control Gun control gun control debate gun control legislation Merrick Garland second amendment United States Washington D.C.

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