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Homemade 'ghost guns' face federal scrutiny as DOJ proposes new regulations on the firearms that are impossible for police to track

 Homemade, untraceable 'ghost guns' are facing federal scrutiny after the Justice Department proposed new regulations on Friday to close loopholes that have allowed their rapid proliferation.

The Justice Department said that, from 2016 to 2020, the ATF had recovered 23,906 firearms that did not display serial numbers, usually made from core parts and kits bought online, sometimes with components made on home 3-D printers.

The department said ghost guns were linked to at least 325 murders or attempted murders in that period.


Some manufacturers have exploited loopholes to sell to home-assemblers the hardest-to-make gun components, the upper and lower receivers, without engraved serial numbers - making the guns impossible for law enforcement to track.

Sgt. Matthew Elseth shows a "ghost guns" on display at the headquarters of the San Francisco Police Department in San Francisco

Sgt. Matthew Elseth shows a 'ghost guns' on display at the headquarters of the San Francisco Police Department in San Francisco

The administration of President Joe Biden has drawn up new rules to crack down on untraceable, home-made 'ghost guns'

The administration of President Joe Biden has drawn up new rules to crack down on untraceable, home-made 'ghost guns'

Dimitri Karras shows a custom 3D-printed lower receiver for a Glock pistol inside Firearms Unknown, a gun store in Oceanside, California on April 12

Dimitri Karras shows a custom 3D-printed lower receiver for a Glock pistol inside Firearms Unknown, a gun store in Oceanside, California on April 12

A participant in an armed rally shows a gun that has a 3D printed lower receiver, a weapon known as a "ghost" gun, at a rally in Richmond, Virginia on January 18, 2021

A participant in an armed rally shows a gun that has a 3D printed lower receiver, a weapon known as a 'ghost' gun, at a rally in Richmond, Virginia on January 18, 2021

Kits for the firearms are also being sold at gun shows without requiring background checks for buyers.

The 115-page document reads: 'Technological advances have also made it easier for unlicensed persons to make firearms at home from standalone parts or weapon parts kits, or by using 3D printers or personally owned or leased equipment, without any records or a background check.'

The document noted that the lack of serial numbers makes it difficult for law enforcement to determine 'where, by whom, or when they were manufactured, and to whom they were sold or otherwise disposed.'

The Trace reported in 2019 that, according to the ATF, about 30 percent of all guns recovered in California alone do not have serial numbers and cannot be traced in criminal investigations. 

President Joe Biden's administration unveiled a raft of measures in April aimed at curbing rampant gun violence, including plans for curbs on ghost guns.


The Justice Department said it was proposing to force manufacturers to put a serial number on the gun frames and receivers that they make and sell separately as parts.

It also proposed that all retailers should have to perform background checks on buyers of kits with parts needed to make a gun at home.

And federally licensed dealers would have to emboss serial numbers on 3-D printed guns they make and sell.

'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,' said Attorney General Merrick Garland in a statement.

'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.'

More than 43,000 people were killed by guns last year, including suicides, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

'Ghost guns' are seen on display at the headquarters of the San Francisco Police Department in San Francisco

'Ghost guns' are seen on display at the headquarters of the San Francisco Police Department in San Francisco

Ghost guns are seen after Spain police dismantle the first illegal 3D weapons manufacturing workshop in the country

Ghost guns are seen after Spain police dismantle the first illegal 3D weapons manufacturing workshop in the country

The Justice Department will confirm the new rules after taking comments over the next 90 days. Opponents would have to go to court to block the move.

In the document, the Justice Department also noted that ghost guns pose Homeland Security risks.

Homeland Security issued a report concluding that ghost guns allow 'prohibited buyers to purchase deadly weapons with just a few clicks online' including 'terrorists and other bad actors may seek to exploit the availability of these weapons.'

The Justice Department said that the ATF traces firearms found by cops at a crime scene 'by first contacting the licensed manufacturer or importer marked on the frame or receiver' who are required to maintain permanent records relating to their manufacture or importation.

However, since ghost guns do not have a serial number or other markings of a licensed manufacturer or importer, the ATF 'has found it extremely difficult to complete such traces' for police. 

Attorney General Merrick Garland said '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'

Attorney General Merrick Garland said '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'

The ATF was only able to successfully trace suspected ghost guns recovered by law enforcement to an individual in 151 out of 23,946 attempts from January 1, 2016 through March 4, 2021, according to the document. 

The move also comes at the request from gun licensors who have asked the ATF for clarity on how to track their inventories, process warranty claims, reconcile any missing inventory, respond to trace requests, and report lost or stolen ghost guns to police and insurance companies without having serial numbers.

The Justice Department said that not being able to trace the ghost guns makes it difficult to identify and prosecute illegal firearms traffickers 'who are often tied to violent criminals and armed narcotics traffickers,' the document reads.

In the footnotes of the document, the Justice Department linked to a press release about a Florida man who was sentenced to five years in prison in 2018 for manufacturing and dealing firearms without a federal license.

Dudley Brown, the president of the National Association for Gun Rights, blasted the Justice Department's proposal

Dudley Brown, the president of the National Association for Gun Rights, blasted the Justice Department's proposal

Hector Luis Santiago-Jorge, then-48, pleaded guilty to manufacturing more than 200 firearms, most of which were AR-15 type weapons, none of which had a serial number.

'It is ATF's primary responsibility to aggressively interdict unlicensed manufacturers and the firearms they illegally peddle,' ATF Special Agent in Charge Daryl McCrary said at the time.

'As subject matter experts, we will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to keep illegal firearms out of our communities.' 

The Justice Department also noted other similar convictions. including a Rhode Island man charged with allegedly manufacturing and selling a 'ghost' machinegun without a license to an undercover ATF agent.

Dudley Brown, the president of the National Association for Gun Rights, blasted the Justice Department's proposal in comments made to Fox News.

He called the rule 'a slap in the face to the millions of law-abiding Americans who have built their own firearms at home.'

'It's a nonsense 'feel good' rule that only burdens good people but does nothing to stop violent criminals and gangsters from obtaining guns,' Dudley said. 

'This is just one more pathetic gun control ploy from Joe Biden as he bows down to the Gun Control Lobby and their unlawful schemes to destroy the Second Amendment.'

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