Home » Blog » Biden Cracking Down on “Ghost Guns” – Here are the Facts

Biden Cracking Down on “Ghost Guns” – Here are the Facts

President Joe Biden, today in a Rose Garden event, announced a series of new measures to combat what he considers the root of America’s crime epidemic…ghost guns.

What is a Ghost Gun?

A ghost gun is any gun without a serial number. Because registered firearms are traced by serial number, these guns cannot be as easily connected to an individual and can make it more difficult to track the gun’s own history. 

Where do ghost guns come from?

There are two types of firearms commonly referred to as ghost guns. Traditionally, ghost guns have referred to guns that had their serial numbers purposefully removed so as to make them untraceable. These are the “ghost guns” most often used in crimes or found in the possession of criminals. Removing the serial number from a gun is already ILLEGAL under federal law.

There is also a hobby culture of gunsmiths and enthusiasts that like to build their own guns from manufactured parts or ready-to-build kits. Since the individual parts don’t have their own serial numbers, the assembled gun doesn’t have a serial number either. However, hobbyist-built guns are very rarely used in crime and those that possess them are rarely criminals.

Under the law, a homemade firearm is considered the same as any firearm you might purchase from a gun store. Creating or possessing this type of ghost gun is currently LEGAL under federal law so long as the owner has the right to possess a firearm normally. Therefore, if a felon were to create a “ghost gun,” he would already be committing a felony under the law as it stands today as felons are not legally able to possess a firearm.

What is Biden Proposing?

Since it is already illegal to file down a serial number, Biden is once again targeting lawful gun owners and enthusiasts. This will have no effect on the crime rate nor will it in any way address the real problem of untraceable guns used in violent crime today.

The rules specifically target hobbyists by…

  1. Requiring serial numbers on frames and receivers sold individually or as part of a kit.
  2. Requiring background checks on the sales of gun parts that could used to build a “ghost gun.”
  3. Requiring gun sellers to add serial numbers to 3D printed and other non-traditionally manufactured guns taken into their inventory before they can be resold.

As is often the case with gun control legislation, these new laws fail to understand that criminals don’t follow the law and won’t abide by the new restrictions. In fact, nearly 80% of criminals caught with a firearm were not the legal owner of that gun. 43.2% of criminals who used a firearm claimed that it was purchased on the black market. 6.4% claimed to have stolen the firearm they used and a further 25.3% got it from a friend or family member.

Criminal Acquisitions of Guns

Source: US Dept. of Justice

Renewing the Assault Weapons Ban

Beyond these rules, Biden also promised to bring back the so-called “Assault Weapons Ban,” the same law that was in effect for 1994-2004. Exhaustive studies showed that the ban had little effect on the overall crime rate, gun incident lethality, or homicides.

In fact, a 2004 report to the Justice Department stated that:

Should it be renewed, the ban’s effects on gun violence are likely to be small at best and perhaps too small for reliable measurement. AWs [Assault Weapons] were rarely used in gun crimes even before the ban. LCMs [Large Capacity Magazines] are involved in a more substantial share of gun crimes, but it is not clear how often the outcomes of gun attacks depend on the ability of offenders to fire more than ten shots (the current magazine capacity limit) without reloading.

While “assault rifles” may look intimidating due to their various accessories, they are functionally no different than any other rifle. They are also not used very frequently in homicides. In fact, more people die each year from falling out of bed than from assault rifles.

Fists, Hands & Feet600 Murders
Knives1,476 Murders
Clubs, Hammers & Bats397 Murders
Falling From Stairs1,307 Accidental Deaths
Falling Out of Bed650 Accidental Deaths
Rifles364 Homicides
Data from FBI & MongaBay. Rifle homicides in 2019 were 364.

Even when it comes to mass shootings, assault weapons have only been used in about 24.6% of them since 1982.

Biden’s ATF Nominee

Steve Dettelbach

In addition to naming these new rules, President Biden has also announced Steve Dettelbach as his nominee to head the Federal Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, & Explosives (ATF).

Detterbach is already under fire for his strong anti-Second Amendment positions including gun bans, new restrictions of transfers, and a narrowing of those “allowed” to possess firearms.

Detterbach follows Biden’s previous nominee, David Chipman, down the gun control rabbit hole. He’s likely to meet the same failure in his Senate confirmation, but Biden wanted to send a message with these rules and this nominee…I’m tough on guns even if my policies don’t work.

Conclusion

As even the government points out, over 300,000 guns are stolen every year. These guns are vastly more likely to turn up at crime scenes sans serial numbers than a homemade gun that never had one.

Instances of homemade guns turning up at crime scenes are incredibly rare, but ATF makes no distinction between homemade and stolen guns with serial numbers removed.

These new moves by the Biden Administration are a poorly formed response to the moral panic. As such, they are unlikely to address the concerns for which they have been proposed.

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