What are ghost guns? Biden to issue new executive order

President Joe Biden, facing pressure to fulfil his promises of action on gun control after recent incidents of mass shootings, is set to finally unveil executive actions to curb gun-related violence across the country.

Among other things — there are six executive orders that Mr Biden will sign on Thursday — the rules will restrict the proliferation of “ghost guns”, unregulated firearms that can be purchased by minors and prohibited buyers without any background checks.

Ghost guns are weapons without serial numbers, and therefore untraceable by law enforcement.

They are generally bought online as components, such as unfinished frames and receivers, and assembled at home. Because such weapons are not manufactured by a licensed manufacturer or importer, but rather made by an individual, they are almost impossible to control.

Experts have noted that ghost guns are increasingly being used by criminals and others who are legally prohibited from buying guns as their weapon of choice, since there is a lack of federal regulation governing their sale.

According to the Brady Plan — whose mission is to reduce gun violence by 25 per cent by 2025 — the problem of ghost guns is “haunting”. These guns are often sold explicitly through “ghost gun kits.”

These kits often have everything necessary to put together a functioning firearm at home. “The ghost gun kits are often sold either online or at gun shows throughout the country,” it said.

Previously, a group of Democrats had asked Mr Biden to grant federal agents greater authority to regulate do-it-yourself ghost guns.

As per the executive actions, the Department of Justice, within 60 days, will publish model red flag legislation for states. That means people can petition courts to take firearms away from those who they deem as a danger to themselves or society, the official said.

In February this year, New York state passed two bills that would regulate unfinished receivers and the manufacture of ghost guns from unserialised component parts. Critics have said that it is because of federal agents’ inaction that ghost guns are not treated as firearms or subjected to background checks.

In November 2019, Los Angeles authorities confirmed that a teen who killed two students and himself in a mass shooting at the Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, California had used a ghost gun. Authorities have since warned that, to bypass gun regulations in place, many more criminals are using ghost guns, which can’t be traced to anyone when found at a crime scene.

In California, at least 30 per cent of guns recovered by the authorities are now ghost guns, a 2019 report by Trace said.

In February 2020, a North Carolina man was sentenced to 15 years in prison for simultaneously trafficking in guns, methamphetamine and cocaine. “Five of the seven weapons that he was transporting from his state to Virginia were ghost guns,” a Department of Justice press release said at the time.

At least 38,000 people die from gun violence every year in the US.

In a report published last year and titled, Untraceable: The Rising Specter of Ghost Guns, by Everytown Research and Policy, it was mentioned that the Covid-19 pandemic created a historic spike in gun sales across the country. It said: “Panic buying at gun stores is concerning enough, but at least these sales are subject to a background check. Unfortunately, the online market for unserialised ghost guns has reached epidemic levels during this national emergency.”

The report found that there was an “exceptionally high demand” for ghost guns during the pandemic. “Based on the findings of the report, among those buyers are certain to be felons, domestic abusers, and gun traffickers who are unlawfully seeking a gun during this crisis.”

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