(NewsNation) — President Joe Biden on Monday laid out new regulations surrounding the sale of so-called ghost guns, which have increasingly become a major part of the national gun conversation, assigning added responsibility to manufacturers, dealers and gunsmiths.
Biden announced his focus on the issue last year along with half-dozen executive actions aimed at tackling gun violence in the United States.
Biden also said his administration is working to reduce gun violence through the following measures: “Going after rogue gun dealers, disrupting illegal gun trafficking, funding community policing and community violence intervention, funding job training, drug treatment, mental health and more.”
The term ghost gun refers to privately made firearms that lack serial numbers and are often unregulated. Those sold online as unfinished firearms assembled by the purchaser have historically skirted regulation since some of the key parts haven’t reached the stage of manufacturing that would classify them as a firearm under the gun control act. Until now, unfinished receivers — including those with no serial number — could be legally purchased online without a license.
About 24,000 ghost guns were recovered by law enforcement at crime scenes and reported to the government from 2016 to 2020, according to the Justice Department.
Still, so-called ghost guns represent a small percentage of all the guns in the U.S., according to Grant Reeher, a political science professor at Syracuse University and the Director of the Campbell Public Affairs Institute.
“However it matters, it’s only going to matter at the margins and the very small margins,” he said.
WHAT DO THE CHANGES MEAN FOR CURRENT GUN OWNERS?
The changes will primarily affect future purchases and sales, but some ghost guns already in circulation could be updated with serial numbers. That being said, the new rule applies only to federally licensed gun dealers and gunsmiths receiving any unserialized firearms.
Someone who built a firearm at home, for example, won’t be required to retroactively put a serial number on it. If they sell that weapon to a pawnbroker or another federally licensed dealer, however, that dealer would need to place a serial number on the weapon before it could be sold again.
The same is true for gunsmiths — a possible point of contention among gun owners and industry workers, Reeher said.
“There’s going to be some gunsmiths that are not going to be able to or will refuse this work because they don’t want to deal with the serial number issue,” Reeher said.
HOW WILL THIS AFFECT FUTURE GUN PURCHASES?
Perhaps most notably, gun kits will now be classified as firearms and sellers of those kits must also become federally licensed. Along those lines, buyers will now have to submit to a background check.
The added requirements could drive up the cost of firearm kits, which banked on their affordability as part of their appeal.
“These things are going to become more expensive,” Reeher said. “And in that regard, they’re probably going to become less attractive to people.”
Another potential source of debate is an added requirement that licensed firearm dealers retain their records until they go out of business, at which point they will have to turn them over to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
Dealers were already required to provide the ATF with existing records when they shut down the business. However, they were also allowed to destroy records after 20 years, which will now change.
“There’s still a long way to go before you get to an actual gun registry, but there have been, for the last 25 years or so, little, little steps that get you a little bit closer and this one is one of them. And the gun rights advocates will focus in on that one, too,” Reeher said.