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Biden sets rule banning sale of untraceable DIY ‘ghost gun’ kits

US President Joe Biden’s administration has finalised a set of new regulations targeting untraceable “ghost guns”.

The new rules come as Mr Biden faces increasing political pressure to act against a rise in gun violence.

The rule bans businesses from selling kits that can be used to create a gun at home without serial numbers.

In remarks at the White House on Monday, Mr Biden also nominated a new director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

The new regulations – which are nearly a year in the making – are expected to face stiff legal resistance from lobbying groups that oppose new gun control regulations.

At the White House, Mr Biden showed the components of a 9mm semi-automatic pistol that he said had been made using a simple kit purchased online.

Ghost guns can be self-assembled and sometimes 3D printed, which means they do not contain a serial number and cannot be traced. Background checks have not previously been required to purchase the assembly kits.

The new rules require self-assembled “buy build shoot” kits to have serial numbers – legally making them a firearm.

“You buy a couch [that] you have to assemble, it’s still a couch,” said Mr Biden said in his news conference.

“You buy the parts you need to build a functioning firearm, it’s still a gun.”

It also forces federally licensed firearm dealers to add serial numbers to any untraceable guns purchased through them.

Experts say that a fraction of violent crimes are being committed with ghost guns, but law enforcement authorities say they are being recovered more frequently at crime scenes.

In 2021, there were about 20,000 suspected ghost guns recovered by police and reported to the ATF – a tenfold increase from 2016, according to the White House.

Meanwhile, the firearms business has seen record sales since the early days of the pandemic two years ago. In 2020, a record of about 22m guns were legally sold. Almost 19m guns were bought in 2021.

Also on Monday, Mr Biden announced a new nominee for the ATF after his first choice failed to advance through the Senate confirmation process because of Republican opposition.

If confirmed, former US attorney for Ohio Steve Dettlebach will be the first to hold the office since 2013.

Gun control is an issue Democrats in Washington always talk about but seldom are able to do much about. Part of this is the reality of congressional gridlock, which allows Republicans in the US Senate to block any substantive legislation on the topic. There is also a fear among Democrats that guns are an electoral liability. They worry that firearm-rights activists are more likely to punish them for new legislation than gun-control proponents are to reward them.

And so Democratic-backed changes, at least on the national level, are made on the margins. Such is the case with the administration move to regulate ghost guns, which at the moment play a relatively small part in the rise of US gun violence.

It is an area, however, where the Biden administration can act on its own, without congressional support. The president can tout an accomplishment that may placate supporters concerned that gun control has languished on the back-burner during the first half of his presidency.

Even here, however, the new rules will face almost certain legal challenge. And with the current conservative bent of the US Supreme Court, their fate may ultimately be in doubt.

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