Who is for and against the regulation of ghost guns? Republicans, Democrats, NRA…
President Biden has attempted to restrict the availability of untraceable and unregistered ‘ghost guns’ which are a growing public saftey threat.
Ghost guns have gained notoriety in recent years as police departments increasingly recover the unregistered weapons at crime scenes across the country. Ghost guns are “unserialized,” meaning they are nearly impossible to trace after they are purchased and assembled by the owners.
The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) reported that a single ghost gun was “linked to 24 murders, eight attempted murders, 20 robberies and 60 assaults with a deadly weapon by the end of last November.” There is also evidence to suggest that ghost guns are on the rise. In 2021 the LAPD “recovered 1,921 ghost guns [...], more than double the 813 ghost guns recovered in 2020.”
On Monday 11 April, President Biden announced that he had signed an executive order to limit the availability of ghost guns. Democrats praised the President’s action and New York City Mayor Eric Adams described ghost guns as “one of the biggest threats to public safety that we face today.”
Will Biden’s action prevent the use of ghost guns?
The action taken by President Biden will see these kits qualified as “firearms under the Gun Control Act” for the first time. This means manufacturers will will be required to have a license and to “include serial numbers on the kits’ frame or receiver.” This will mean that, like other firearms, those who sell them must “run background checks prior to a sale – just like they have to do with other commercially-made firearms.”
Under federal law, background checks are only required for licensed gun sellers. Unlicensed sellers, many of whom have been selling ghost guns, do not need to conduct background checks. In an attempt to close the loophole, the new rules will also require pawnbrokers and other federally licensed dealers that purchased one of these weapons to “put a serial number on the weapon before selling it to a customer.”
Response from the Republican Party
Republicans, dogmatic supporters of the Second Amendment, were quick to reject Biden’s proposal. Many also argued that the action represented an overreach in executive power that would have little impact on crime.
The GOP House Judiciary Committee tweeted, “Biden’s gun grab is coming,” quickly after the President’s announcement.
The account also retweeted a message from Kentucky representative Thomas Massie who voiced his opposition to President Biden’s order saying, “The Constitution does not authorize the federal government to prevent you from making your own firearm.” He followed this by arguing that the Constitution clearly states that Congress should make the laws, not the President.
The sentiment of these two arguments are undermined by each other.
First, while the founding fathers did not include any limits on the assembling of weapons, the Second Amendment does not stipulate the right to build an untraceable lethal weapon in your home. The 2012 Republican Party Platform reads that the GOP will “defend the law-abiding citizen’s God-given right of self-defense.” This is a common refrain within Republican discourse on gun control and its aims to protect the rights of “law-abiding citizens.”
Second, Massie has yet to author or propose a bill to make ghost guns harder to access. If Massie and other members of the GOP are in favor or limiting the circulation of ghost guns, they could propose a bill that would make some of the same changes offered by President Biden. If they disagree with the proposal, they can write a bill that invalidates or challenges the President’s order.
For many law enforcement officials, the prevalence of these weapons makes their jobs more dangerous as well as making it more difficult to catch perpetrators and create a deterrent.
“Approximately 20,000 suspected ghost guns reported to ATF (Alcohol, Firearms, and Tabacco) as having been recovered by law enforcement in criminal investigations – a ten-fold increase from 2016,” reported the White House on Monday.
Everytown USA has reported fifteen instances in 2022 alone where a ghost gun was used, resulting in death or injury. Sadly many of these cases involve minors as these guns can be purchased online where age restrictions are not enforced.
On 25 February, a 14-year-old in Albuquerque killed a sixteen-year-old and just last week, a teenager killed a 16-year-old and injured two other students using this type of weapon.