Joe Biden to issue final rule regulating ‘ghost guns,’ nominate new ATF director Steve Dettelbach

Joe Biden to issue final rule regulating ‘ghost guns,’ nominate new ATF director Steve Dettelbach

President Biden on Monday will announce new firearm regulations to require serial numbers and background checks for so-called “ghost guns,” while also picking a new nominee to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, senior administration officials said.

Mr. Biden will name Steve Dettelbach, a former U.S. attorney from Ohio, to lead the ATF after the president’s previous nominee, David Chipman, was forced to withdraw.

Officials said Sunday that the Justice Department will publish a final rule on “ghost guns” — untraceable weapons made from kits — that would classify the components used to make them as firearms requiring serial numbers to aid in tracking them.

Manufacturers who sell the kits would need to be licensed and would be required to run background checks on potential buyers of the kits.

The moves come as violent crime is at or near record levels in many cities across the U.S., and ghost guns increasingly are used in crimes. Mr. Biden’s job-approval ratings have plummeted as voters increasingly express concern about issues such as inflation and crime.

But Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, has said the administration’s focus on ghost guns will have “little to no effect on violent crime” that has risen nationwide.

“Despite this continued rise in violent crime, the DOJ has decided to follow the president in focusing its time and taxpayer resources on policies that will not work, including addressing the so-called ‘Iron Pipeline,’ ghost guns, and lawful firearms dealers,” Mr. Grassley told Attorney General Merrick Garland in February.  

Mr. Grassley cited data from the ATF and the FBI to indicate that “ghost guns” were used in less than 0.36% of homicides between 2016 and 2020. He also has said the Justice Department’s statistics show that just 7% of firearms used in a crime are acquired from legal firearms dealers.

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, called for a crackdown on ghost guns on Sunday and blamed Republicans for blocking gun legislation.

“I am calling on the administration to go all after ghost guns, by putting out regulations that will stop them,” Mr. Schumer said at a press conference. “The federal government has the ability through regulation to stop these ghost guns.”

Last week, Maryland joined Washington, D.C., and 10 other states in curbing or banning the use of ghost guns.