New rule by the Biden-Harris administration prevents the continued proliferation of homemade ghost guns; implemented following two unsuccessful gun industry-backed challenges in North Dakota and Texas federal courts
Washington, D.C., August 24, 2022 - Starting today, previously unregulated parts and kits used to build untraceable and unserialized guns, known as “ghost guns,” will be treated the same as all other commercially made firearms: they must be serialized and any purchaser will be subject to a background check by a licensed dealer for the initial commercial sale.
The new Department of Justice (DOJ) rule, which goes into effect today, will halt the continued proliferation of ghost guns — fully functioning, untraceable, homemade firearms. In recent years, ghost guns have become a weapon of choice for criminal activity and have been easily accessible to gun traffickers and other prohibited purchasers seeking firearms for criminal activity.
Unsurprisingly, the gun industry was still seeking to block the rule change until the last minute. Brady, Everytown for Gun Safety, and March for Our Lives jointly filed amicus briefs in federal district court in North Dakota and Texas in support of it, and yesterday, both judges rejected these attempts to prevent the rule from taking effect. Read the rulings here (ND) and here (TX). With these ruling, the rule will go into effect today, but, we expect the gun industry to continue working to circumvent the law and allow unrestricted access to these dangerous and untraceable firearms.
Brady President Kris Brown shared:
“It’s simple: If you can’t pass a background check, you shouldn’t be able to build a gun in your basement. Today is a monumental day in our fight against gun violence, and I again applaud President Biden for his decisive action. This rule will curtail the market of unregulated and untraceable firearms, which poses one of the fastest growing public safety threats in America. In just the past few years, these homemade guns have been used in school shootings, mass shootings, domestic violence incidents, shootings against police officers, and community violence across the country. However, while this is a huge step forward, the new rule doesn’t address the potentially hundreds of thousands of ghost guns already in circulation. It remains imperative that policymakers at all levels of government address these threats through legislation.”
About Brady’s Efforts to Stop the Spread of Ghost Guns
In 2020, Brady Legal brought the nation's first two civil lawsuits against the ghost gun industry on behalf of victims and survivors of gun violence following the Rancho Tehama, California, mass shooting in November 2017.
In 2022, Brady Legal, alongside the City of Baltimore, sued Polymer80, the nation’s largest ghost gun manufacturer, for fueling gun violence in Baltimore, MD.
Brady has also worked with states to proactively pass legislation that addresses ghost gun loopholes. The following states have laws on the books to ban or regulate ghost guns:
* Brady worked alongside lawmakers and advocates to pass a bill regulating ghost guns.
A number of cities and localities have also moved on historic policy proposals to ban or regulate ghost guns, including:
About the ATF and DOJ Ghost Gun Rule
In response to the growing threat of ghost guns, the Biden-Harris administration’s Department of Justice (DOJ) announced a rule to allow for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to regulate the parts and kits used to build these weapons. The ATF rule broadens the federal definition of “firearm” to include ghost gun kits, and unfinished frames and receivers. These parts and kits have been explicitly designed and marketed to skirt federal regulation and can be easily assembled into a functioning firearm.
The ATF’s new ghost gun rule will ensure that federally licensed firearm dealers and gun manufacturers treat the parts and kits used to build ghost guns the same as all other commercially made firearms: they must be serialized and any purchaser will be subject to a Brady background check for the initial commercial sale.
These sensible reforms will have an immediate and tangible impact on the effort to prevent gun violence. Brady mobilized Americans across the country to share thousands of public comments in support of the ATF regulation, and we are taking action to protect the rule against legal challenges waged by the gun industry, which reaps profits from the sale of ghost guns.
About Ghost Guns
Ghost guns are unserialized and untraceable firearms that are made from "ghost gun kits," that can be bought online, at gun shows, or at gun stores and assembled at home. "Ghost gun kits" include all of the parts and often the equipment necessary to build these weapons at home. In recent years, these kits have become widely available and available for purchase by anyone, including prohibited purchasers such as domestic abusers and gun traffickers, without a background check or any paper trail. As Brady’s Team ENOUGH has shown, anyone with internet access, regardless of their age, could have a ghost gun kit delivered to their home and assembled in under an hour.
The sale of ghost gun parts and kits have increased significantly in recent years, and the use of ghost guns in crime has increased exponentially.
Across the United States the total number of recovered ghost guns has increased by 1,000% – from 1,758 recovered in 2016 to 19,344 recovered in 2021.
Between 2016 and 2021, at least 692 of the 45,240 ghost guns recovered by law enforcement across the country were recovered in connection to a homicide or homicide attempt investigation.
Due to their untraceable nature, no data exists on how many ghost gun kits and parts are sold each year. However, ATF data shows that online keyword searches related to ghost guns have increased by 600% between 2012 and 2021.
Ghost guns have been used in several mass shootings, including a 2017 shooting in Rancho Tehama, CA and a 2019 shooting at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, CA.
Brady has one powerful mission — to unite all Americans against gun violence. We work across Congress, the courts, and our communities with over 90 grassroots chapters, bringing together young and old, red and blue, and every shade of color to find common ground in common sense. In the spirit of our namesakes Jim and Sarah Brady, we have fought for over 45 years to take action, not sides, and we will not stop until this epidemic ends. It’s in our hands.