by Photo courtesy of FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin

President Biden and the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced new measures to crack down on “ghost guns”, calling for congressional action to pass universal background checks. 

A “ghost gun” is an unregistered and untraceable homemade weapon that can be made with a 3D printer or assembled in a kit. The new rule issued by the DOJ specifies what a firearm is, and zeros in on the type of weapon most commonly seen at crimes country-wide. 

The new rule will require serial numbers on each firearm, sellers are licensed and background checks on purchasers. It mandates firearm dealers add a serial number to already built ghost guns they come across in their businesses.

"All of a sudden, it's no longer a ghost," Biden said. "It has a return address. And it's going to help save lives, reduce crime and get more criminals off the streets."

This rule clarifies that these kits qualify as “firearms” under the Gun Control Act, and would be subject to the same federal laws as other firearms. 

According to the Bureau of Alchohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (AFT), there were about 20,000 ghost guns reported and uncovered in 2021 by law enforcement in criminal investigations. This was a ten-fold increase from 2016, according to data shared by the White House. 

San Diego elected officials applauded this effort, which mirrors similar actions taken by the city and county in recent months. 

“President Biden's administration recognizes the devastating effect ghost guns are having on local communities. I'm pleased they are taking action to better regulate the buy and build gun kits,'' San Diego County Board of Supervisors chair Nathan Fletcher said. 

In January, the Board of Supervisors also passed an ordinance requiring safe firearm storage and prohibiting the distribution or creation of ghost guns in the county.

“We stepped up … to eradicate these dangerous weapons from our neighborhoods, and the action by the White House strengthens our rules locally,'' Fletcher said Monday.

San Diego City Councilwoman Marni von Wilpert, who wrote and helped pass the Eliminate Non-Serialized Untraceable Firearms ordinance in the city last year, said: “requiring these buy-build-shoot gun kits to have serial numbers and licensed dealers to perform background checks at the time of purchase will help keep firearms out of the hands of individuals intent on violence". 

The DOJ intends to turn some existing ghost guns into serialized firearms by requiring serial numbers to be added on resale.

According to the White House, the DOJ launched a national ghost gun enforcement initiative in February 2022, which will "train a national cadre of prosecutors and disseminate investigation and prosecution tools to help bring cases against those who use ghost guns to commit crimes,"

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