Senators urge Justice Department, ATF to clarify, enforce ghost guns rule

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In response to companies’ attempts to circumvent restrictions imposed by the federal Ghost Gun Rule, more than a dozen Democratic senators this week wrote to the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) to address the matter and crackdown.

“These companies have adopted the position that selling almost complete frames and receivers without the tools (commonly known as jigs) or instructions to complete them means that their products are not firearms under of federal law,” the senators wrote. “Of the 100 companies once known to sell unserialized and nearly complete frames and receivers, dozens remain committed to that business.”

Ghost guns are unserialized weapons by design, making them untraceable. This, combined with their ease of assembly at home – some can be made with 3D printers – and the composition often undetectable by metal detectors, has caused them alarm from law enforcement and lawmakers. . The Ghost Gun Rule is an effort to target these weapons by regulating the unfinished frames and receivers that make up the main components used to build them.

Legislators like US Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) said ghost guns are attractive to criminals and extremists and pose a serious threat to the public. This was supported by ATF data, which showed a sharp increase in criminal involvement as their popularity increased. From 2016 to 2021, the recovery of ghost guns at potential crime scenes jumped from 1,758 to 19,344 incidents. Of the 23,946 recovered ghost guns it tried to trace during that time, the ATF was able to track down only 151.

Despite this, the senators participating in this letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland and ATF Director Steven Dettelbach maintained that some companies claimed they could still sell almost complete frames and receivers as standalone products without tools and other materials and avoid triggering the consequences of the new rule. Companies will also sell those tools and materials separately, though.

In response, the senators said the rule is unambiguous: a nearly complete frame or receiver is still a firearm and should be treated as such.

“The rule covers not only frames and receivers sold as part of a kit, but also frames and receivers that are easily complete,” the senators said. “In fact, enforcing the rule only against sellers of kits would be a huge loophole…The Ghost Gun Rule was promulgated to curb the proliferation of ghost guns, mitigate the threat these firearms pose to our community, and help law enforcement—at every level—do their jobs.”

The signatories urged DOJ and ATF to issue enforcement guidance stating in no uncertain terms that how ATF reviews the replaceable nature of substantially complete frames or receivers is not limited to tools, equipment , and instructions included in the same sale but in what of those are available to the general public. They also insisted on details on implementing actions against ghost gun companies that violate the rule.

The letter was led by US Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).

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