US What are ghost guns?: Biden executive action targets 'dangerous' and 'untraceable' firearms
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As President Joein the wake of several recent mass shootings in the U.S., renewed focus is on
Among the actions Biden will announce is directing the Department of Justice to propose a rule within 30 days to stop the proliferation of "ghost guns," a sort of untraceable weapon often made from a kit that currently does not require a background check.
A senior administration official who spoke with USA TODAY on the condition of anonymity confirmed "ghost guns" would be targeted but declined to say whether that meant the Justice Department would classify them as firearms.
Washington needs to address the rising tide of 'ghost guns'
Manufactured without a serial number and virtually untraceable, they account for more than four in ten guns recovered in LA criminal investigations.Just how big a threat? In February, Los Angeles law enforcement officials arrested a suspect who allegedly was manufacturing ghost guns, including high-capacity rifles, and selling them to gang members. Months earlier, a convicted felon in neighboring Compton ambushed Sheriff's deputies sitting in their car, shooting them in the face and head with a ghost gun.
Gun-control advocates have long pointed to "ghost guns" as problematic and a way for someone to obtain a firearm without having to go through the checks they would otherwise face.
"Ghost gun companies have been exploiting the way that the federal government defines 'firearms' to argue that the products they’re selling aren’t guns and avoid complying with regulations like background checks and tracing requirements," said David Pucino, a senior attorney at the gun violence prevention group Giffords.
"It should be no surprise we are seeing more and more of these guns used in crimes. The President directing the Justice Department to address this problem should go a long way in stopping the proliferation of these unregulated, deadly guns."
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Read more on Biden's gun violence actions:
Here's what to know about "ghost guns":
What are 'ghost guns'?
"Ghost guns" are guns without serial numbers that are largely untraceable and do not require the typical background checks for purchase.
Also called "kit guns" or "80% guns," they are often purchased in a kit that allows the buyer to assemble the gun at home.
More on 'ghost guns':
"You have untraceable, unserialized firearms that exist completely outside of the regulatory scheme of federal and state law," Nick Suplina, managing director for law and policy at gun violence group Everytown, told USA TODAY. "People who are prohibited from owning firearms under federal or state law have ready access to make their own untraceable firearms, and that's very dangerous."
Biden administration to hasten gun control efforts through executive actions and ATF nomination
President Joe Biden is amping up efforts to limit access to firearms, through looming executive actions and by nominating an adviser to a prominent gun control group to head a key federal law enforcement agency. © Provided by Washington Examiner Biden on Thursday will announce new efforts to crack down on "ghost guns," untraceable firearms assembled from parts purchased online. The president will also announce he's nominating David Chipman, a senior adviser to the gun-control group Giffords, to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, a senior administration official said.
called "ghost guns" "dangerous" and said they can also be made from mostly plastic parts and 3D printers.
Usually, gunmakers or importers affix a serial number and markings to traditionally manufactured firearms 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 guns to their first retail purchaser when investigating a crime.
Those who make "ghost guns" and parts, however, can say 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 track, Giffords said.
Pucino said the lack of a required background check got "ghost guns" can also make it easier for people who are otherwise prohibited from possessing a firearm to obtain one.
Have 'ghost guns' been used in crimes before?
According to Giffords, "ghost guns" are increasingly part of illegal gun trafficking rings.
, another gun violence advocacy group, says sales and the use of "ghost guns" have increased in recent years. The group cited a in which Carlos A. Canino, the Special Agent in charge of the ATF Los Angeles Field Division, said in 2020 that "41%, so almost half our cases we're coming across are these 'ghost guns.'"
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With Congress deeply divided, President Joe Biden is planning to take actions under his executive authority to try to address gun violence, following a wave of deadly shootings and concerns from advocates. © Brendan Smialowski / AFP/Getty Images US President Joe Biden speaks about infrastructure investment from the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House campus on April 7, 2021, in Washington, DC.
"Ghost guns" have also been used in at least three mass shootings in recent years: A, California, that left five people dead, a , California, that left four people dead and a , California, that left two students at Saugus High School dead.
How are 'ghost guns' regulated?
The ATF determines whether a product is a firearm that requires a background check and serial number or if it is an unfinished kit and requires no check or serial number.
Suplina said the federal government considers frames or receivers – which house other parts, including the firing mechanism – the part of the gun that makes it a firearm and requires a serial number and background check to purchase. If a receiver is considered unfinished under federal purview, it is not regulated like a firearm, he said.
Boulder shooting suspect's gun looked like a rifle:
The Undetectable Firearms Act requires, however, that guns are detectable by metal detectors "after removal of grips, stocks and magazines" and that X-rays can detect all major components, including "the barrel, the slide or cylinder, or the frame or receiver."
However, according to Giffords, a person could make a gun with largely plastic parts and some metal parts that are easily removable before entering a security area.
'Enough': Biden takes aim at ghost guns, calling mass shootings an 'international embarrassment'
Spurred by President Joe Biden unveiled a slate of gun actions on Thursday aimed at targeting untraceable firearms known as "ghost guns" and pressing the Justice Department to advance measures to stem gun violence. © Provided by Washington Examiner Biden is using his executive authority to target "loopholes" on ghost guns; push for nationwide legislation allowing police or family members to petition a court to temporarily remove a gun from someone's possession; modifiers used to convert pistols to short-barreled rifles; and targeting gun violence in urban communities.
Eight states and the District of Columbia have enacted some sort of law addressing "ghost guns," Giffords reports.
What will the Biden executive orders on guns do?
Biden's order on "ghost guns" will require the Justice Department within 30 days to "issue a proposed rule to help stop the proliferation of 'ghost guns,'" thesays.
Pucino praised the action as being able to "cut off the supply of untraceable firearms at its source."
The five other actions Biden plans to take, according to the White House, include:
- Requiring the Justice Department to propose a new rule that would subject pistols with stabilizing braces to the requirements of the National Firearms Act.
- Publishing a model of "red flag" law for states, which allow courts to temporarily bar people deemed to be a risk to themselves or others from having a firearm.
- Directing five federal agencies to make changes to the 26 different programs to direct vital support to community violence intervention programs.
- Requiring the Justice Department to issue an annual report on firearms trafficking.
- Nominating David Chipman at the head of the ATF.
Contributing: Courtney Subramanian
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY:
Biden's gun actions could have a positive, if limited, impact, experts say .
While Biden's moves could chip away at gun violence, there is no substitute for congressional action, they say.The move was one of several executive actions Biden rolled out last week, which he signaled he would pursue in the wake of the shootings in Boulder and the Atlanta area last month.