Biden to Tap New ATF Nominee and Finalize Ghost Gun Rules


WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden announced the finalization of new federal rules restricting so-called “ghost guns” that allow purchasers to assemble potentially untraceable weapons from kits. 

“The gun lobby tried to tie up the regulators and paperwork for a long, long time,” Biden said Monday afternoon at a Rose Garden event announcing the rule.

The president called the new policy “just basic common sense,” adding, “It’s gonna make a difference, I promise you.”

Biden also called once again on Congress to pass universal background checks and to ban assault weapons. He spoke alongside Vice President Kamala Harris and Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco.

Biden announced at the same event that he’s nominating Steve Dettelbach, a former U.S. attorney in Ohio, as the next director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The White House was unable to rally enough votes to confirm his previous pick for the job, David Chipman.

The moves come as the administration has faced criticism over a rise in gun violence during the coronavirus pandemic. There were more than 45,000 gun-related deaths in the U.S. in 2020 — the last full year for which data is available — according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The White House hopes that Dettelbach, who was unanimously confirmed to his job leading federal prosecutions in the Northern District of Ohio, will fare better than Chipman, a former ATF agent whose nomination was opposed by Republicans as well as Sen. Angus King, a Maine independent who caucuses with Democrats.

Chipman was the latest in a series of failed nominees to lead the bureau, which has had only one Senate-confirmed director in its history. Gun control activists have said a Senate-confirmed leader could help implement stronger regulations on firearms.

Opponents criticized Chipman for his work with gun control advocacy groups, including Everytown for Gun Safety. The organization, which advocates for universal background checks and gun-safety measures, is backed by Michael Bloomberg, founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent company Bloomberg LP. 

The new ghost gun rules will seek to make purchases of kits that allow Americans to construct their own firearms more similar to the existing procedures for buying a traditionally manufactured gun. Sellers of gun kits will be required to run background checks, and the kits must be marked with a serial number to make them easier to trace.

Gun retailers will be required to retain records as long as they maintain a license, which means continually operating stores can no longer dispose of records after 20 years.

“This rule will make it harder for criminals and other prohibited persons to obtain untraceable guns, will help ensure that law enforcement officers can retrieve the information they need to solve crimes, and will help reduce the number of untraceable firearms flooding our communities,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.