DOJ proposes to update firearm definitions to crack down on ghost guns


FILE – In this file photo taken Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2019, is Sgt. Matthew Elseth with “ghost guns” on display at the headquarters of the San Francisco Police Department in San Francisco. A federal appeals court in San Francisco has ruled that plans for 3D-printed, self-assembled “ghost guns” can be posted online without U.S. State Department approval. The San Francisco Chronicle says the 2-1 decision was made Tuesday, April 27, 2021, by the 9th U.S. District Court of Appeals. (AP Photo/Haven Daley,File)

WASHINGTON (NEWS10) – The Department of Justice issued a notice Friday of possibly updating the definitions of “firearm.” The definition has not been updated since 1968.

The proposed rule would modernize the definition of “frame or receiver” and help close a loophole associated with un-serialized, privately-made firearms. The DOJ says these “ghost guns” are increasingly being recovered at crime scenes across the country. These unmarked firearms are often assembled from kits that are sold without background checks, making them easily accessible to people who otherwise would not be able to possess a firearm.

“We are committed to taking commonsense steps to address the epidemic of gun violence that takes the lives of too many people in our communities,” said Attorney General Merrick Garland. “Criminals and others barred from owning a gun should not be able to exploit a loophole to evade background checks and to escape detection by law enforcement. This proposed rule would help keep guns out of the wrong hands and make it easier for law enforcement to trace guns used to commit violent crimes, while protecting the rights of law-abiding Americans. Although this rulemaking will solve only one aspect of the problem, we have an obligation to do our part to keep our families and our neighborhoods safe from gun violence.”

As the rule states, from 2016 to 2020, more than 23,000 ghost guns were recovered by police from potential crime scenes, including 325 homicides or attempted homicides.

The proposed rule, once established, would help address the ghost gun increase in three ways:

  • The rule would say that retailers must run background checks before selling kits that contain the parts necessary for someone to make a gun at home
  • The rule would require that manufacturers include a serial number on the firearm “frame or receiver” in easy-to-build firearm kits
  • The rule would set requirements for federally licensed firearms dealers to have a serial number added to 3D printed guns or other un-serialized firearms they take into inventory

Once the rule is published in the Federal Register, the public will have 90 days to submit comments.

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