Biden announces new nominee to head ATF and rule targeting “ghost guns”

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President Biden on Monday announced his new nominee to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). He also announced new regulations targeting ghost guns.

Southwest Florida gun owners don’t know if it will reduce crime, but they do think it will increase arrests for crimes committed with ghost guns because before, ghost guns weren’t traceable at all.

The new regulations could change the game. Ghost guns are the burners phones of the gun world.

“You just want to make it as untraceable as possible and create as many degrees of separation between you and the gun,” said gun owner Aaron Forum.

How many degrees of separation are there?

“The way that the ATF will trace the firearm found on a crime scene is they look at the serial number. And then from there, they go to the manufacturer, and they ask the manufacturer, where did this gun get shipped to? And they say, well, we send it to this distributor. And that distributor says, well, we send to this gun dealer, and they would say, hey, who bought this gun? And then they would go find that guy, right? Because we have to keep the paperwork for 20 years that you’ll find him and say, hey, where’s this firearm? He would say, oh, I sold it to some guy at a gun show,” said Forum.

Without a serial number, “Lacking that ability, it certainly puts investigators step behind,” said WINK News Safety and Security Specialist Righ Kolko.

President Biden is hoping that this move will help them get ahead. The new rules target privately-made firearms that can be assembled from do-it-yourself kits purchased online or in a store. Commercial manufacturers of the kits will have to be licensed and must add serial numbers on the kits’ frame or receiver.

Kolko said this is a step in the right direction. “Requiring serial numbers that may be helpful to investigators down the road,” said Kolko.

Watch President Biden’s announcement in the player below or click here.

Biden nominated Steve Dettelbach, a former U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, to run the federal law enforcement agency. “[Dettelbach] should be a noncontroversial candidate because he has a long record of working in law enforcement,” a senior administration official said.

In 2018, Dettelbach lost his race to be Ohio’s attorney general. During the campaign, he advocated for universal background checks for those who wish to purchase guns, reinstating the assault weapons ban, and restricting guns for people with serious mental health problems, according to WOSU.

If confirmed by the Senate, Dettelbach would be the first permanent ATF director since 2015.

Mr. Biden had originally tapped David Chipman to lead the agency, but pulled the nomination after several Republican lawmakers and Senator Angus King, an Independent who caucuses with Democrats, voiced their opposition to the pick. After his nomination was withdrawn, Chipman criticized the lawmakers for their opposition, telling “CBS Evening News” anchor and managing editor Norah O’Donnell that the gun industry “profits by gun violence itself.”

The Biden administration on Monday also announced a new rule to regulate the manufacturing and sale of “ghost guns” — homemade firearms that lack serial numbers, making them difficult for law enforcement to trace. The new rule will require the guns — which can be made with 3D printers or sold as assembly kits — to be treated like other firearms made and sold in the U.S.

Commercial manufacturers of ghost gun assembly kits will now be required to include serial numbers. Commercial sellers will also need to be federally licensed, run background checks before selling a homemade gun kit and keep records of the purchases for as long as they are in business. The current rule allows sellers to purge records after 20 years.

A senior administration official said the ATF was able to trace fewer than 1% of the approximately 45,000 ghost guns recovered during criminal investigations between January 2016 and December 2021. Almost 700 of the incidents were homicides or attempted homicides, the senior administration official said.

A senior administration official asserted during a Sunday press briefing that “this rule operates within the legal boundaries of the Constitution.”

This final regulatory rule on ghost guns comes one year after the Biden White House tasked the Justice Department with looking into such weapons after mass shootings in Boulder and Atlanta in 2021.

“Ghost guns look like a gun, they shoot like a gun, and they kill like a gun, but up until now they haven’t been regulated like a gun,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety. Feinblatt expressed confidence in Biden’s new ATF nominee “to lead a top-to-bottom overhaul of the agency.”

Ghost guns have recently been cited by metropolitan police chiefs and politicians as one of the causes of increased crime rates across the country.

“In New York City in 2019, we recovered 47 ghost guns. In 2020, we recovered 150 ghost guns. In 2021, that number jumped up to 375. And so far in 2022, we have 85 compared to 20 last year,” NYPD Chief of Intelligence Tom Galati said last month. “That’s a 325% increase of seizures of ghost guns since last year.”

But ghost guns are used in only a fraction of gun crimes. About 12% of guns seized by the NYPD so far this year were ghost guns, according to the New York Post, although data is limited because of how difficult it is to trace them.

In a CBS News poll released on Sunday, Americans listed crime as the third-highest priority — after the economy and inflation — that they thought Mr. Biden and his administration should address.

WINK News Reporter Michael Hudak contributed to this report.

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