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EXPLAINED: What are ghost guns? Why They Are an Issue Now And Why is US President Biden taking action?

President Biden on Monday announced a ban on unlicensed kits to manufacture so-called ghost guns at home as part of his efforts to crack down on the proliferation of untraceable firearms.

The new rule includes a ban on “buy build shoot” kits that people can purchase online or at a store without a background check. The kit can assemble a working firearm in as little as 30 minutes, according to senior administration officials.

The new rule clarifies that such kits qualify as “firearms” under the Gun Control Act and, as a result, commercial manufacturers of them must be licensed, include serial numbers and conduct a background check prior to a sale.

Here’s a look at ghost guns and the debate brewing in the U.S.

What is a Ghost Guns?

Ghost guns are constructed by individuals using unfinished frames or receivers, the piece of the firearm that contains the operating parts of the firing mechanism, and which are the part of the gun regulated under federal law. However, when a frame or receiver is “unfinished” by a small fraction, it is unregulated. Ghost gun kits include all of the necessary component parts to turn the unfinished frame or receiver into a fully functioning gun, which once assembled looks, feels, and functions like a traditional gun, whether a handgun or assault weapon, and is just as deadly and dangerous in the wrong hands. 

  • There are no federal restrictions on who can buy ghost gun kits or parts;
  • There are no federal limitations on how many ghost gun kits or parts someone can buy;
  • Ghost gun kits and parts are relatively cheap; and
  • Ghost gun kits and parts are intentionally marketed as unregulated and untraceable to appeal to those who want to avoid background checks and/or are gun traffickers.

How hard are they to assemble?

Decades ago, it may have required certain technical knowledge and skill to convert an unfinished firearm frame or receiver into a fully functioning firearm, but those days are over. Today, with just a few tools and less than an hour, a person with no gunsmithing skills can take an unfinished frame or receiver and make it into a working firearm. Online sellers have tapped into this market, becoming one-stop shops for ghost gun parts, tools, and how-to guides. And these sellers openly promote that their products are designed to evade ATF regulation. It should come as no surprise that ghost gun recoveries across the U.S. are on the rise, and have recently been connected with criminal enterprises, gun trafficking rings, and far-right extremists.

Is a Background Check Required to Purchase a Ghost Gun?

No. Sales of partially finished firearms components evade the federal background check requirement. As a result, individuals who wouldn’t be able to buy a firearm—whether that is because of a felony record, a history of domestic abuse, or even the fact that they are underage—can buy a ghost gun kit and make a gun themselves, with no background check and no questions asked.

Are 3D- Printed Guns Ghost Guns?

Yes. 3D-printed guns allow individuals with 3D-printing technology and blueprints to print gun parts at home and then assemble them into a functional gun. As with all ghost guns, this assembly can be done without a background check, and produces guns without serial numbers. Guns made with 3D-printers can also often evade detection by metal detectors and other security scanning equipment.

Have they been linked to mass shootings?

Decades ago, it may have required certain technical knowledge and skill to convert an unfinished firearm frame or receiver into a fully functioning firearm, but those days are over. Today, with just a few tools and less than an hour, a person with no gunsmithing skills can take an unfinished frame or receiver and make it into a working firearm. Online sellers have tapped into this market, becoming one-stop shops for ghost gun parts, tools, and how-to guides. And these sellers openly promote that their products are designed to evade ATF regulation. It should come as no surprise that ghost gun recoveries across the U.S. are on the rise, and have recently been connected with criminal enterprises, gun trafficking rings, and far-right extremists.

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