Clamping down on untraceable ‘ghost guns’ common sense, Biden says

White House targets weapon crime and plans to ease personal burden of health debt

The Biden administration is to clamp down on untraceable firearms or what are known as “ghost guns” as part of a new initiative to deal with crime involving weapons.

The move – which essentially involves an updating of the legal definition of a firearm – will involve a ban on the manufacture of kits which can be accessed online and assembled at home into a working gun within 30 minutes or so.

President Joe Biden, at a ceremony to announce his new initiative, also urged the US Congress to introduce universal background checks on people seeking to purchase guns.

He also said his administration would crack down on rogue gun dealers and seek to disrupt the illegal trafficking of firearms.

Mr Biden said the firearms lobby and the National Rifle Association had criticised his proposed clampdown on "ghost guns" as "extreme".

“Is it extreme to protect police officers, our children or to keep guns out of the hands of people who could not pass a background check? It is not extreme. It is basic common sense,” he said.

Billing practices

Separately, the Biden administration is to introduce new consumer protection measures to reduce the burden of debt related to medical treatment which affects one in every three American adults.

For the first time, the US government will link consideration for funding to healthcare providers to whether their billing practices impact on access and affordability of care and the accrual of medical debt.

The White House said: "The federal government pays roughly $1.5 trillion a year into the healthcare system to provide patients with quality care and services. Providers receiving that funding should make it easy for eligible patients to receive the financial assistance they are entitled to, and should not directly or indirectly subject patients to illegal and harassing debt-collection practices."

The administration is also to put in place measures to reduce the role that medical debt plays in determining whether Americans can access credit to buy a home or secure a small business loan.

Under the new firearms regulations, commercial manufacturers of such kits will be required to become licensed and to carry out background checks prior to a sale.

‘Buy, build, shoot’

The White House defined “ghost guns” as privately made firearms without serial numbers.

It maintained that police and law-enforcement agencies were increasingly recovering such weapons at crime scenes in cities across the country.

It said that last year there were approximately 20,000 suspected “ghost guns” reported to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives – the country’s top federal law enforcement agency responsible for enforcing gun laws – as having been recovered as part of criminal investigations.

The White House said the new regulations would seek to ban “the business of manufacturing the most accessible ghost guns, such as unserialised ‘buy, build, shoot’ kits that individuals can buy online or at a store without a background check and can readily assemble into a working firearm in as little as 30 minutes with equipment they have at home”.

The White House said the new regulations would clarify that such kits be considered as firearms under existing gun-control legislation.

Under the new rules, commercial manufacturers of such kits “must therefore become licensed and include serial numbers on the kits’ frame or receiver, and commercial sellers of these kits must become federally licensed and run background checks prior to a sale – just like they have to do with other commercially made firearms”.

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent