Biden announces new gun regulations, nominates ATF nominee

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Regulations on so-called “ghost weapons” – unregulated, untraceable weapons made from kits – will close a critical gap in the government’s ability to track them by requiring pre-purchase background checks and identification numbers. series on some of the components. Although phantom weapons represent a relatively small share of weapons recovered by law enforcement, they have been observed with increasing frequency in recent years.

Biden brought one of the kits to the Rose Garden on Monday, declaring the new rules “basic common sense” before holding up one of the weapons made from the equipment.

“If you buy a couch that you need to assemble, it’s still a couch. If you order a package like this here that includes the parts you need and directs the assembly of a working gun, you bought a gun,” he said. , walking towards the kit and demonstrating the weapon’s ease of construction.

“It doesn’t take very long,” he said. “Anyone can order it by mail.”

Biden has also nominated Steve Dettelbach, a former U.S. attorney from Ohio, as his nominee to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The former presidential nominee was forced to step down amid opposition in the Senate.

“This mission of this agency is not controversial – it’s public safety,” Biden said.

The moves came as gun violence and crime rose in the United States, putting pressure on the White House to act. A spate of shootings over the weekend underscored the urgency: Four people, including two teenagers, were shot shortly after a Major League Baseball game in Washington, DC, on Saturday night, police said. In Illinois, six people were found injured after a shooting in a residential area.

Police are also investigating a shooting at a birthday party in Indianapolis where six people were shot and one person was killed. And two people were also killed and 10 hospitalized after a “targeted attack” at a Cedar Rapids nightclub, police say.

Routine lethal gun violence is a uniquely American problem. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called gun violence a “serious threat to public health” last year. Biden has made modest progress on gun control, but major moves like banning assault weapons or closing background check loopholes would require congressional action.

“None of this absolves Congress … of the responsibility to act,” Biden said.

Gun violence traditionally peaks in the summer months, adding urgency to Monday’s actions.

The new rule issued by the Department of Justice aims to contain a type of weapon that has been seen increasingly at crime scenes across the country. Ghost gun kits can be purchased online and a gun can be crafted in just 30 minutes. Because regulators can’t track them down, phantom guns attract criminals and those with criminal histories, officials say.

The new rules require anyone purchasing a kit to submit to a background check, as is required for other types of firearm purchases. It also requires those selling the kits to mark the components with a serial number, so that the eventual weapon produced can be traced. And it requires gun dealers to add a serial number to pre-built ghost guns they come across in their businesses.

“All of a sudden it’s not a ghost anymore,” Biden said of the new rules. “He has a return address. And it will help save lives, reduce crime and get more criminals off the streets.”

“Ghost weapons look like a gun, they shoot like a gun and kill like a gun, but so far they haven’t been regulated as a gun,” said John Feinblatt , president of Everytown for Gun Safety, in a statement. celebrating the Biden administration for “doubling down on its commitment to gun safety.”

Mia Tretta, who was shot with a ghost gun in a California school shooting in 2019, also praised the administration for taking “a critical step” with the new regulations. Tretta introduced the president at the Rose Garden on Monday.

“If you can put an IKEA dresser together, you can build a ghost gun,” she said in a statement. “Unfortunately, it’s so easy to get a gun that has not only changed my life, but has done the same to thousands of others. Finalizing this rule is a critical step in ensuring that no one no one else has to go through what my family has had to go through.”

The Department of Justice previously launched a National Ghost Weapons Enforcement Initiative, which “will train a national cadre of prosecutors and disseminate investigative and prosecutorial tools to help prosecute those who use ghost weapons to commit crimes,” according to the White House.

Biden said Monday that those who commit a crime using a ghost gun should “expect federal prosecution.”

“This rule is an important step. It’s going to make a difference, I promise you that,” Biden said.

Ghost guns have been used in several recent shootings, including at a Maryland high school in January. The exact number in circulation is unknowable, given the inability of regulators to track them.

Between 2016 and 2021, the ATF received 45,000 reports of privately manufactured firearms recovered by law enforcement, including 692 of homicides or attempted homicides. The agency was only able to locate 1% of them, officials said, because the guns lacked serial numbers.

Maryland joins 10 states and DC becomes latest to impose shadow gun restrictions

Several states have moved to restrict their sale as ghost guns become more common at crime scenes.

Last week, Maryland joined Washington, DC and 10 other states – California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Virginia and Washington – in banning or restricting the purchase or use phantom weapons. , which are often purchased online and assembled at home.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer again denounced the use of phantom guns at a press conference on Sunday, calling for a crackdown on the rise of privately-made guns and citing a deadly shooting in the Bronx on Friday.

The New York Democrat accused Republicans of delaying gun reform legislation, while urging the Biden administration to go further. “Today, I call on the administration to crack down on ghost weapons, by enacting regulations that will stop them. The federal government has the ability, through regulation, to stop these ghost weapons,” did he declare.

Still, Biden’s proposed gun regulations drew backlash from gun rights advocates even before it was officially announced.

Aidan Johnston, director of federal affairs for Gun Owners of America, said in a statement Sunday, “Biden’s proposal to create a comprehensive national gun registry and end the online sale of gun parts to fire without the passing of a new law illustrates his contempt for the Second Amendment.”

In September, Biden withdrew his nomination of David Chipman to head the ATF after facing opposition from Republicans and some moderate Democrats.

Chipman, a former career manager at the ATF, has come under scrutiny from gun rights advocates and the National Rifle Association for his work as Everytown’s senior adviser. for Gun Safety and Giffords – the organization started by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot dead. at an event in his district of Arizona in 2011.

Dettelbach unsuccessfully ran for Ohio attorney general in 2018 after serving as a U.S. attorney in the state.

“We will work hard to ensure Steve Dettelbach receives the fair hearing and confirmation he deserves. He should be a non-controversial candidate as he has a long history of working in law enforcement and public safety. of the people of Ohio and the American people,” one of the officials said.

CNN’s Paul LeBlanc contributed to this report.

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