President Joe Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland announced today the creation of a “National Ghost Gun Enforcement Initiative” designed to crack down on homemade guns, sometimes referred to as “ghost guns.”
The announcement comes as Biden travels to New York City to meet with Mayor Eric Adams, who recently announced his own “Blueprint to End Gun Violence.”
“Today, the Department is announcing the launch of a national ghost gun enforcement initiative designed to prevent these unserialized firearms from being used to commit crimes, including by prioritizing bringing federal charges against criminal use of these weapons,” the DOJ explained in a statement.
As part of this new initiative, the DOJ will “train a national cadre of prosecutors on enforcement issues specific to the use of ghost guns in crimes.” These prosecutors will be available to “every district across the country.”
The DOJ will also send out a “set of materials” to assist investigators and prosecutors in bringing cases against those who use homemade firearms in crimes, and designate a “ghost gun coordinator” in each ATF field division.
The statement’s focus on crimes and criminals is doubtless intended to reassure law-abiding gun owners that the DOJ won’t come after them. But “ghost gun” owners may not be considered “law-abiding” for long.
At the behest of the Biden administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) proposed a new rule that would redefine what constitutes a “firearm frame or receiver.”
As part of this new rule, the ATF will ban “weapons parts kits” by redefining the term “firearm” to include “a weapon parts kit that is designed to or may readily be assembled, completed, converted, or restored to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive.”
This new definition requires companies that manufacture weapons parts kits to serialize unfinished receivers and conduct a background check on all customers prior to purchase.
The ATF assures gun owners that “nothing in this rule would restrict persons not otherwise prohibited from possessing firearms from making their own firearms at home without markings solely for personal use.”
However, the DOJ’s laser focus on “ghost gun” prosecution casts doubt on how gun owners who currently own non-serialized weapons parts kits will be treated. As GunsAmerica has covered previously, the ATF has banned a product, secured customer lists from gun companies, and used those lists to prosecute search warrants.
In the case of one firefighter from California, state agents discovered illegal firearms while assisting the ATF on its raid, and the state tried to prosecute him.
Considering this history, the DOJ’s assurance that its new task force will only target criminal ghost gun owners is small comfort.