Justice Department Proposes New Regulation to Update Firearm Definitions
Proposed Rule Seeks to Close “Ghost Gun” Loophole
WASHINGTON – The Department of Justice today issued a notice of proposed rulemaking that would update the definitions of “firearm” and related parts for the first time since 1968. The proposed rule would modernize the definition of “frame or receiver” and help close a regulatory loophole associated with the un-serialized privately made firearms that are increasingly being recovered at crime scenes across the country. These unmarked firearms, known as “ghost guns,” are often assembled from kits that are sold without background checks, making them easily acquired by criminals who otherwise would not be permitted to possess a firearm.
“We are committed to taking commonsense steps to address the epidemic of gun violence that takes the lives of too many people in our communities,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “Criminals and others barred from owning a gun should not be able to exploit a loophole to evade background checks and to escape detection by law enforcement. This proposed rule would help keep guns out of the wrong hands and make it easier for law enforcement to trace guns used to commit violent crimes, while protecting the rights of law-abiding Americans. Although this rulemaking will solve only one aspect of the problem, we have an obligation to do our part to keep our families and our neighborhoods safe from gun violence.”
As the proposed rule explains, from 2016 to 2020, more than 23,000 un-serialized firearms were reported to have been recovered by law enforcement from potential crime scenes — including in connection with 325 homicides or attempted homicides. The proposed rule, once implemented, would help address the proliferation of these un-serialized firearms in three ways:
- To help keep guns from being sold to convicted felons and other prohibited purchasers, the rule would make clear that retailers must run background checks before selling kits that contain the parts necessary for someone to readily make a gun at home.
- To help law enforcement trace guns used in a crime, the rule would require that manufacturers include a serial number on the firearm “frame or receiver” in easy-to-build firearm kits.
- To help reduce the number of “ghost guns” on our streets, the rule would set out requirements for federally licensed firearms dealers to have a serial number added to 3D printed guns or other un-serialized firearms they take into inventory.
Once the proposed rule is published in the Federal Register, the public will have 90 days to submit comments. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking can be viewed here.
To learn more about the rulemaking process, please see the attached.