In a town hall meeting Wednesday, President Joe Biden highlighted his administration’s efforts to ban “phantom weapons,” among other efforts to curb rising gun violence.
Asked about his administration’s efforts to tackle gun violence at a CNN town hall in Cincinnati, Ohio, Biden said he was trying to push through his gun laws and was trying to eliminate assault weapons. He added that he would also investigate the “ghost gun sellers”.
“I think you’ve had a lot of gun violence here in Cincinnati,” Biden said. “It’s not because gun stores in towns are selling these guns. They’re either ghost gun dealers and / or law-breaking gun stores. So we’re going to investigate. important and shut down these guys and put a few of them in jail for what selling these guns. There’s also a thing called ghost guns that are being sold now and used. “
In April, Biden ordered the Justice Department to come up with a 30-day rule to stop the proliferation of these types of weapons, a sort of untraceable weapon often made from a kit that currently does not require a background check.
“Over two weeks ago at the Rose Garden, surrounded by some of the bravest people I know – survivors and families who have lost loved ones to gun violence – I outlined several steps that are being taken the Department of Justice to end this epidemic. of them ban so-called “phantom weapons,” “Biden said in his speech during his first address to a joint session of Congress in April.
“The coins do not have a serial number, so when they show up at a crime scene they cannot be found,” Biden said in his speech at the time. “Buyers of ghost weapon kits are not required to pass a background check. Anyone from criminal to terrorist could purchase this kit and, in as little as 30 minutes, assemble a lethal weapon. now.
“I will do everything in my power to protect the American people from this epidemic of gun violence. But it is time for Congress to act as well.”
Gun control advocates have long called “ghost guns” problematic and a way for someone to get a gun without having to go through the controls they would otherwise face.
“Ghost gun companies have exploited the way the federal government defines ‘guns’ to argue that the products they sell are not guns and avoid complying with regulations such as audits background and tracing requirements, “said David Pucino, senior counsel. to Giffords Gun Violence Prevention Group.
“It shouldn’t be surprising that we see more and more of these weapons being used in crimes. President ordering Justice Department to tackle this problem should go a long way in stopping the proliferation of these deadly unregulated weapons. . “
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Here is what you need to know about “ghost weapons”:
What are “ghost weapons”?
“Ghost guns” are guns without a serial number that are largely unobtainable and do not require the typical background checks to purchase.
Also referred to as “kit guns” or “80% guns,” they are often purchased in a kit that allows the buyer to assemble the gun at home.
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“You have untraceable, unserialized firearms that exist completely outside the regulatory regime of federal and state laws,” Nick Suplina, chief legal and policy officer for gun violence group Everytown, told USA TODAY. “People who are prohibited from owning firearms under federal or state law have easy access to manufacture their own untraceable firearms, and it is very dangerous.”
Giffords called “ghost weapons” “dangerous” and said they can also be made mostly from plastic parts and 3D printers.
Usually, gun manufacturers or importers affix a serial number and markings to traditionally manufactured guns that identify the manufacturer or importer, make, model and caliber, the center said.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives can then trace these firearms to their first retail purchaser during a crime investigation.
Those who manufacture “ghost guns” and parts, however, may say that they are not selling an actual firearm and are not required to use a serial number under federal law, which makes the chain of custody nearly impossible to follow, Giffords said.
Pucino said the lack of a required background check for “ghost guns” may also make it easier to obtain a gun for people who are otherwise prohibited from owning a gun.
Have “ghost weapons” ever been used in crimes?
According to Giffords, “ghost weapons” are increasingly part of illegal firearms trafficking rings.
Brady, another gun violence advocacy group, says sales and use of “phantom weapons” have increased in recent years. The group cited a KABC-TV report in which Carlos A. Canino, the special agent in charge of the ATF field division in Los Angeles, said in 2020 that “41%, so almost half cases we come across are these ‘ghost guns.’ “
“Phantom weapons” have also been used in at least three mass shootings in recent years: a 2013 shooting in Santa Monica, Calif. That killed five, a 2017 shooting in Tehama County, Calif., that killed four and one in the 2019 shootout in Santa Clarita, Calif. that left two students dead among Saugus High School students.
How are “ghost weapons” regulated?
The ATF determines if a product is a firearm that requires a background check and serial number, or if it is an unfinished kit and does not require a verification or serial number.
Suplina said the federal government considers frames or receivers – which house other parts, including the firing mechanism – the part of the weapon that makes it a firearm and requires a serial number and verification history to buy. If a receiver is considered unfinished under federal jurisdiction, it is not regulated as a firearm, he said.
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The Undetectable Firearms Act, however, requires that firearms be detectable by metal detectors “after removing handles, stocks and magazines” and that x-rays can detect all major components, including ” the barrel, the slide or the cylinder, or the frame or receiver. “
However, according to Giffords, a person could make a gun with largely plastic parts and easily removable metal parts before entering a safe area.
Eight states and the District of Columbia have enacted some sort of “ghost gun” law, Giffords reports.
What will Biden’s gun decrees do?
Biden’s “phantom weapons” order will require the Justice Department within 30 days to “issue a proposed rule to help stop the proliferation of” phantom weapons, “” the White House said.
Pucino hailed the action as being able to “cut off the supply of firearms not found at their source.”
The other five actions Biden plans to take, according to the White House, include:
- Demand that the Department of Justice come up with a new rule that would subject pistols with stabilizer straps to the requirements of the national firearms law.
- Released a model “red flag” law for states, which allows courts to temporarily ban people considered a risk to themselves or others from having a firearm.
- Ask five federal agencies to make changes to 26 different programs to direct vital support to community violence intervention programs.
- Require the Department of Justice to publish an annual report on trafficking in firearms.
- Appointment of David Chipman at the head of the ATF.
Contribution: Courtney Subramanian
Follow USA TODAY’s Ryan Miller on Twitter @RyanW_Miller