What To Know Today

Parsing the Biden administration’s ambitious new ghost gun rule. On Monday, the White House published its long-anticipated final rule — a 364-page document cracking down on privately made, unserialized guns. From January 2016 to December 2021, the ATF says it received more than 45,000 reports of suspected ghost guns recovered by law enforcement, and more than 19,000 in 2021 alone. Critically, the new rule updates the ATF’s definition of a firearm to include so-called unfinished or split receivers, making such components applicable to federal gun restrictions under the Gun Control Act and subjecting ghost gun kits — which include unfinished firearm receivers — to background checks by federal firearm licensees. In practice, the rule means:

  • Ghost gun kit manufacturers and sellers will need a license and be required to add serial numbers to any gun frames or receivers included in a kit. 
  • Federally licensed dealers and gunsmiths will need to serialize any unserialized gun that they bring into their inventory. 
  • FFLs will have to retain records until they shut down and then transfer them to the ATF. Currently, FFLs are allowed to destroy such records after 20 years. The ATF’s National Tracing Center estimates that over 1,300 guns annually are untraceable because an FFL legally destroyed a relevant record.

The rule, which goes into effect 120 days from when its published in the federal register, is expected to draw swift legal challenges from gun rights groups. 

A record number of comments. The Department of Justice said it received more than 290,000 during a 90-day public feedback period last year on its ghost gun rule, the most comments on a proposed rule in ATF history. 

Amid praise and criticism, does the new ATF nominee have the votes in the Senate? President Joe Biden tapped former U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach to lead the ATF. A broad group of law enforcement officials and prosecutors that included former Trump administration officials offered their support, as did gun reform groups. Gun rights groups and their allies are largely opposing or expressing skepticism about the nominee, who has previously supported gun reforms including an assault weapons ban, universal background checks, and red flag laws. It’s unclear if Dettelbach will be able to secure the vote of every Senate Democrat he’d need to be confirmed if Republicans remain uniformly opposed. Angus King of Maine, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats and whose opposition to David Chipman helped sink his nomination in September, is currently reviewing the nomination and will be a key senator to watch

Permitless carry fails in Nebraska. The bill’s failure to advance in the Legislature marks a rare recent defeat in a Republican-controlled state for the policy, which eliminates licensing and training requirements for carriers of concealed handguns. Indiana recently became the 24th state to enact permitless carry shortly after Alabama and Ohio did the same this year.

Data Point

5,000 — the number of fatal shootings surpassed for the year on Sunday, according to Gun Violence Archive. That means that this year, on average, there have been about 50 gun deaths per day, excluding suicides. The current tally puts the country roughly where it was in 2021, when it surpassed 5,000 fatal shootings on April 9 (compared to April 30 in 2020 and May 14 in 2019). [Gun Violence Archive]