Skip to content

Illustration by Security Management

U.S. DOJ Aims to Close Ghost Gun Loopholes

The U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) submitted a final rule to the Federal Register Monday that would subject kits used to build firearms—often called “ghost guns” because they lack serial numbers—to the same regulations as other firearms.

Currently, all guns manufactured in the United States or imported into the country must have serial numbers. They are also subject to other regulations, such as background checks for purchasers depending on how they are sold. Ghost guns are sold in parts and must be assembled by the buyer. Prior to the "Frame or Receiver" final rule, they did not require serial numbers and were not subject to other regulations such as background checks. The rule is scheduled to go into effect in 120 days after its Federal Register publication date.

“We call them ‘ghost guns’ because they can’t be traced—but make no mistake, they are real; they can shoot to kill—and they do,” said U.S. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco at a press briefing in the White House Rose Garden Monday. “For years, criminals have sought out these unmarked guns to murder and maim. That’s why today Attorney General Garland has signed a rule that updates our regulations to keep up with changes in technology. The goal: to keep untraceable guns off the streets—out of the hands of criminals and others prohibited by law from possessing a firearm.”

The rule also requires federally licensed gun retailers to add serial numbers to any unserialized firearms they have or add into their inventory. The retailers will also be required to keep records of all gun sales indefinitely.

“Throughout the past decade,” NPR reported, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) “has struggled to trace firearms because the records had already been destroyed.” If the retailer goes out of business, it must turns its records into the ATF.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) expressed its opposition to the rule in a statement to Fox News and via a statement on its official Twitter account.

“An administration that’s truly sincere and resolute about curbing violent crime rates would do one thing: take violent criminals off the streets immediately," the NRA’s managing director of public affairs, Andrew Arulanandam, told Fox News Digital on Monday. "Yet, the Biden administration allows these criminals who kill and maim with callous and reckless abandon, again and again, to roam the streets of Baltimore, Philadelphia, Chicago, New York, San Francisco, and other cities large and small across our country without fear of prosecution and punishment."

While firearms built from kits sans serial numbers have been around for decades, their popularity has grown significantly. According to the DOJ release, the number of guns without serial numbers that are suspected to be from build-at-home kits that have been recovered by law enforcement has increased steadily, from 1,758 in 2016 to 7,517 in 2019 to 19,344 in 2021. There are no reliable statistics for the number of kits sold.

The issue the firearms present to law enforcement became more prevalent in 2013, when John Zawahri killed five people in Santa Monica, California, using a gun he manufactured himself to avoid a background check.