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President Biden on Monday announced that the Justice Department issued its long-awaited final rule to rein in the proliferation of “ghost guns,” making it illegal for a business to manufacture firearms without serial numbers.
Ghost guns are unserialized, privately-made firearms that law enforcement are increasingly recovering at crime scenes in cities across the nation, the White House said Monday.
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Last year alone, there were approximately 20,000 suspected ghost guns reported to ATF has having been recovered by law enforcement in criminal investigations— which the White House said is a “ten-fold increase” from 2016.
“Because ghost guns lack the serial numbers marked on other firearms, law enforcement has an exceedingly difficult time tracing a ghost gun found at a crime scene back to an individual purchase,” the White House said.
Biden formally unveiled the rule from the White House Rose Garden Monday afternoon, alongside Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco.
“Today, the United States Department of Justice is making it illegal for a business to manufacture on of these without a serial number,” Biden said, picking up a model ghost gun and showing the audience. “These guns are weapons of choice for many criminals.”
The president said his administration is “going to do everything we can deprive them of that choice.”
“Look, this should be just a start,” the president said, adding that the U.S. needs to “repeal the liability” shielding gun manufacturers and “finally hold them accountable for false advertising and many other things.”
The rule bans the business of manufacturing the most accessible ghost guns, such as unserialized “buy build shoot” kits that individuals can buy online or at a store without a background check and can readily assemble into a working firearm in as little as 30 minutes with equipment they have at home.
The rule clarifies that these kits qualify as “firearms” under the Gun Control Act, and that commercial manufacturers of such kits must therefore become licensed and include serial numbers on the kits’ frame or receiver, and commercial sellers of these kits must become federally licensed and run background checks prior to a sale – just like they have to do with other commercially-made firearms.
The White House said the rule will also help turn some ghost guns already in circulation into serialized firearms.
Under the new rule, the Justice Department is requiring federally licensed dealers and gunsmiths taking any unserialized firearm into inventory to serialize that weapon.
“For example, if an individual builds a firearm at home and then sells it to a pawn broker or another federally licensed dealer, that dealer must put a serial number on the weapon before selling it to a customer,” the White House said, adding that the requirement “will apply regardless of how the firearm was made, meaning it includes ghost guns made from individual parts, kits, or by 3D-printers.”
Biden warned Monday that “if you commit a crime, the ghost can expect a federal prosecution—not just state.”
“This rule is an important step,” Biden said.
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But Biden, on Monday, said that while his administration is taking these actions, Congress needs to act.
“None of this absolves Congress,” Biden said. “Of all due respect to my members of Congress…we need Congress to pass universal background checks.”
Biden said he knows it is “controversial,” but said he wants to “ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines.”
Biden’s 2023 budget proposal calls on Congress to deliver funding to implement his comprehensive strategy to reduce gun crime and make communities safer.
The White House said the additional resources would “fund accountable policing, including by putting more police officers on the beat, and making essential investments in crime prevention and community violence intervention.”
“Congress needs to do its job by passing this budget and other essential legislation to reduce gun crime, including legislation to require background checks for all gun sales, ensure that no terrorist can buy a weapon in the United States, ban the sale and possession of unserialized firearms — ghost guns, ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and repeal gun manufacturers’ protection from liability,” the White House said Monday.
Meanwhile, echoing his State of the Union remarks, the president called for “additional funding to put police on the streets for community policing.”
“One thing we learned in the middle fo the crime wave not long ago—when the cop knows by first name who owns the corner drugstore, who lives in the apartment above, the people who are the pastors and the churches, guess what?” Biden said. “People talk to them.”
Biden, during his State of the Union address, called on Congress to provide more funding to law enforcement, by spending on crime prevention and putting more community police officers on the streets to “get to know neighbors and restore trust and safety.”
The “crime wave” Biden referred to Monday was a reference to violent crime spiking across the nation, after some cities reduced funding for their police departments in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests against the murder of George Floyd in 2020 in Minneapolis. The surge has continued in 2022.
The ghost gun rule builds on the Biden administration’s prior executive action to rein in the proliferation of ghost guns.
In February, the Justice Department launched a National Ghost Gun Enforcement Initiative, which trains prosecutors and disseminates investigation and prosecution tools to help bring cases against those who use ghost guns to commit crimes.
And in addition to the DOJ rule, the administration also took action to ensure that firearms with split receivers are subject to regulations requiring serial numbers and background checks when purchased from a licensed dealer, manufacturer or importer.
Monaco, on Monday, said some of the “key changes” include “updating old definitions to ensure that gun laws apply to all firearms, including ghost guns, requiring gun dealers to run background checks on kits containing parts that can readily be converted into a gun, facilitating tracing by requiring firearms dealers to apply serial numbers to existing ghost guns that they then take into inventory.”
“Because of these updates, law enforcement will have additional crime gun intelligence to stop gun violence, to seek justice for victims of violent crimes, and to get guns used in crimes off of our streets,” she said.
The Biden administration will also now require federally licensed firearms dealers to retain key records until they shut down their businesses or license activity.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) on Monday slammed the new rule, claiming that the Biden administration is not “truly sincere” on curbing violent crimes.
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“An administration that’s truly sincere and resolute about curbing violent crime rates would do one thing: take violent criminals off the streets immediately,” the NRA’s managing director of public affairs Andrew Arulanandam told Fox News Digital on Monday. “Yet, the Biden administration allows these criminals who kill and maim with callous and reckless abandon, again and again, to roam the streets of Baltimore, Philadelphia, Chicago, New York, San Francisco and other cities large and small across our country without fear of prosecution and punishment.”
Republican Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., also criticized the administration’s rule.
“The people of Wyoming see President Biden’s executive action for what it really is: an unconstitutional, backdoor gun grab,” Barrasso told Fox News. “This is an attempt to distract from the real reason we’re seeing crime skyrocket across the country.”
He added: “If Democrats are serious about combatting crime, they need to stop defunding the police and start prosecuting criminals. Attacking the constitutional rights of Americans is not the answer.”
Biden has repeatedly called for additional investments in law enforcement.
The new rules are part of Biden’s comprehensive gun crime education strategy.
Meanwhile, Biden announced his nominee for director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Steve Dettelbach.
“The mission of this agency isn’t controversial,” Biden said, in nominating Dettelbach.
A White House official described him as a “highly qualified candidate,” and a “highly respected former U.S. attorney and career prosecutor” with a “proven track record.”
Fox News first reported that a number of Republican-appointed federal prosecutors have offered their endorsements for Dettelbach as of Monday morning—including former Trump deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein.
The president’s nomination of Dettelbach comes as he and his administration work to ensure that ATF “has the leadership it needs to enforce our commonsense gun laws and fight gun crime.”
Biden, last year, appointed David Chipman as his nominee for director of ATF in 2021. Chipman faced fierce backlash from pro-gun rights groups almost immediately following his nomination earlier this year.
The 25-year ATF veteran has made a name for himself as a strong advocate for increased regulations of guns and has returned to his role as an advisor for Giffords, a gun control advocacy group named after former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona who was shot while in office.
Biden pulled Chipman’s nomination Sept. 9 after his confirmation failed to get through the Senate.
Fox News’ Tyler Olson, Emma Colton and The Associated Press contributed to this report.