What Is a 'Ghost Gun'? Biden's Gun Control Plan Targets Handmade Firearms

Ghost guns are targeted in President Joe Biden's gun control plans, outlined on Wednesday, following several U.S. mass shootings in the past month.

The White House said in a statement: "Gun violence takes lives and leaves a lasting legacy of trauma in communities every single day in this country, even when it is not on the nightly news. In fact, cities across the country are in the midst of a historic spike in homicides, violence that disproportionately impacts Black and brown Americans.

"The President is committed to taking action to reduce all forms of gun violence—community violence, mass shootings, domestic violence, and suicide by firearm."

Ghost Guns

Biden's gun control plan involves six initial actions, that the White House says are "fully within the Administration's authority and the Second Amendment" to address gun violence in the U.S., including tackling "ghost guns."

But what is a ghost gun? Ghost guns are self-assembled or handmade handguns that are unregistered, do not have serial numbers, and therefore cannot be traced. Ghost guns can be acquired by people who would not normally pass a background check or minors.

As part of the gun control plan, the Justice Department will issue a proposed rule to help stop the proliferation of these "ghost guns."

A statement released by the White House says: "We are experiencing a growing problem: criminals are buying kits containing nearly all of the components and directions for finishing a firearm within as little as 30 minutes and using these firearms to commit crimes.

"When these firearms turn up at crime scenes, they often cannot be traced by law enforcement due to the lack of a serial number. The Justice Department will issue a proposed rule to help stop the proliferation of these firearms."

In February, New York passed legislation that would "strengthen the penalties and regulation of unfinished receivers and guns without serial numbers, also known as 'Ghost Guns.'"

However, New York's legislation was not welcomed by proponents of guns, like the National Rifle Association (NRA) which wrote: "'Ghost gun' is an invented term intended to scare. Ghosts are imaginary, and so is the problem this bill is trying to address.

"There is scant evidence that these types of firearms are used in crimes in New York. Criminals are not interested in costly equipment and the time-consuming and laborious process of manufacturing their own firearms like hobbyists when they can simply remove serial numbers by defacing crime guns."

Aside from tackling ghost guns, other initial actions that form Biden's gun control plan include a proposed rule to "make clear when a device marketed as a stabilizing brace effectively turns a pistol into a short-barreled rifle subject to the requirements of the National Firearms Act."

The Justice Department will also publish a model "red flag" legislation for states that would "allow family members or law enforcement to petition for a court order temporarily barring people in crisis from accessing firearms if they present a danger to themselves or others," among other initial steps.

President Joe Biden
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks during an event at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building April 7, 2021, in Washington D.C. Biden's gun control plan involves tackling handmade 'ghost guns'. Alex Wong/Getty