Biden names new ATF head, announces rule to control selling of ‘ghost guns’

Steve Dettelbach, a former federal attorney President Joe Biden has nominated to serve as director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, speaks during an event on gun violence in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, D.C., on Monday. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI

April 11 (UPI) — President Joe Biden on Monday nominated former U.S. Attorney Steve Dettelbach to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and unveiled a new rule to address growing concerns over so-called “ghost guns.”

Biden’s nomination of Dettelbach comes amid a rise in violent crimes in which ghost guns — privately assembled firearms without serial numbers — are becoming more common.

Dettelbach served for two decades as a prosecutor in the Justice Department and has a track record in combating violent crime, domestic violence, extremism and religious violence.

“The gun lobby tried to tie up the regulators and paperwork for a long, long time. The NRA called this rule I’m about to announce ‘extreme.’ But let me ask you, is it extreme to protect police officers, extreme to protect our children,” Biden said during his speech, standing next to a ghost gun kit.

A “ghost gun kit” was displayed Monday at a White House event where U.S. President Joe Biden announced new actions by his administration to fight gun crime. Photo by Chris Kleponis/UPI
“Look, if you buy a couch you have to assemble, it’s still a couch. If you order a package like this one over here that includes the parts you need and the directions for assembling it, you bought a gun. Take a look!”

Biden noted that ghost guns often come in kits with directions on how to assemble them and can be quickly put together by a “felon, a terrorist, a domestic abuser” in around 30 minutes.

“These guns are weapons of choice for many criminals and we’re going to do everything we can to deprive them of that choice, and we’ll find and put them in jail for a long long time,” Biden said.

Biden added that anyone who commits a crime with a ghost gun can “expect federal prosecution.”

Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco outlined the new rules, which include updating “old definitions” of gun laws to ensure they apply to all firearms — including ghost guns.

It will be illegal to manufacture ghost guns and gun dealers will be required to run background checks on anyone seeking to purchase parts that can be used to assemble a ghost gun, Monaco said.

Gun dealers will also be required to add serial numbers to any ghost guns they take into their inventories.

“If somebody sells a ghost gun to a federally licensed dealer, for example, a pawn shop, that dealer must mark it with a serial number before reselling it,” Biden said.

“All of the sudden, it is no longer a ghost. It has a return address. And this rule is only part of our strategy.”

Last year, law enforcement agencies reported 20,000 suspected ghost guns recovered in criminal investigations to ATF, about 10 times the number reported in 2016, according to the White House.

Biden also urged local governments across the country to use funds provided by the American Rescue Plan to pay police overtime and purchase technology that can help law enforcement reduce crime.

“He’s worked with police to combat domestic terrorism and to take violent criminals off the street. Steve’s record makes him ready on Day 1 to lead this agency,” Biden said.

“And by the way, in 2009 the U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed him to serve as U.S. Attorney. I look forward to working with the Senate to get him confirmed again.”

Mia Tretta, who was shot by another student with a ghost gun at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, Calif., in 2019, also spoke during the announcement.

Her best friend Dominic Blackwell and another student were shot dead next to her.

“We spent the morning like any other, laughing, talking, until we heard a loud pop. It was a gunshot followed by six more. One of them hit me in the stomach,” Tretta said.

“Somehow I was able to get up and run away but Dominic couldn’t. I was airlifted to a hospital and spent hours in surgery having a bullet removed from my abdomen that was millimeters away from my major artery.”

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