WASHINGTON — With gun violence surging across the country, the Biden administration and a Florida congresswoman are launching a new push to crack down on so-called ghost guns, untraceable firearms that can be made at home.
What You Need To Know
- The Biden administration and U.S. Rep. Val Demings are pushing for regulation of so-called ghost guns
- The guns are built by individuals without a background check and are untraceable
- Opponents of the regulation say someone building a firearm is protected by the Constitution
Supporters of gun-rights say being able to build your own firearm is protected by the U.S. Constitution.
“Really any type of equipment that can help you finish a gun part, we develop software to help you do that,” said Cody Wilson of Defense Distributed.
The company Wilson founded sells ready-to-assemble gun kits and publishes open-source designs for guns that can be made with 3D printers — allowing Americans to obtain untraceable guns without a background check. Wilson believes everyone in America has a right to build guns at home.
“It’s always been legal under federal law, but in the last 10 years it’s become a lot more controversial because it has never been easier,” Wilson said in an interview with Spectrum News.
The Biden administration is proposing to expand federal regulation of firearms to include do-it-yourself guns. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is seeking to update the legal definition of a firearm, in an effort to crack down on kits to manufacture untraceable guns.
“The regulations are intended to stop companies like mine,” Wilson explained.
According to the Department of Justice, the number of homemade guns recovered from crime scenes is skyrocketing. The proposed rule says that from 2016 to 2020, the number of privately made firearms recovered from the scenes of violent crime increased from 1,750 in 2016 to 8,712 in 2020.
“Vice President Harris and I also — and our entire administration — are continuing to be, taking action where we can,” President Joe Biden said during a speech on the administration’s gun prevention strategy on June 23.
“Let’s stop the proliferation of ghost guns, as we announced back in April with the Attorney General,” he said.
The proposed rule would require serial numbers on DIY gun kits and background checks for anyone buying them. It could be adopted later this year.
“We are seeing more and more of these ghost guns being trafficked by illegal traffickers, we are seeing more and more ghost guns being recovered by police,” said Adam Skaggs, chief counsel and policy director for Giffords Law Center.
"If we require someone buying a traditional gun, fully assembled, to pass a background check and require a serial number on the gun, then do-it-yourself guns should meet the same standards,” he said in an interview with Spectrum News.
Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., is sponsoring legislation to regulate ghost guns. The former Orlando police chief said it would be a more enduring solution than a federal rule, which could be easily repealed by a future president.
“We have to, as legislators, utilize every tool that we have — that tool is legislation to make sure guns do not fall into the wrong hands,” Demings said in an interview with Spectrum News.
Wilson said he did not see the issue of ghost guns as a serious one.
“As the technology improves, there's an interest with criminals, I won’t disagree with that, but I don’t believe it is measurably a problem,” he said.
Wilson said a crackdown on gun kits could simply spur people people to use the blueprints he provides to make guns at home with 3D printers.
“We give you software and you can create the thing from scratch, either with a 3D printer or with our equipment," he said. "In a kind of perverse way we stand to benefit."
The ATF is accepting public comment on the proposed rule up until August 19. Officials will review the comments and then issue a final rule.
The government has sued Wilson to block his distribution of gun blueprints — a federal appeals court will hear the case in August.