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Ghost Guns are Real Guns. It’s Past Time They Are Treated as Such

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Do you know how to assemble a piece of IKEA furniture? If so, you could assemble a ghost gun. Ghost guns are firearms that can be bought online and sent to your house for you to assemble with ease. The seller may even include a link to a helpful YouTube video. But there is one catch — they aren’t really considered guns. Well, at least not when you buy them. 

Since the weapons are sent unassembled in pieces, they are not subject to registration by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and background checks like other firearms. This lack of regulation allows anyone to buy and assemble powerful, untraceable firearms at home. Ghost guns are real guns, so they must be regulated and treated as such. 

On April 11th, President Biden in a joint effort with the Department of Justice took the first step toward regulating ghost guns. Biden announced a new rule which if implemented, would require all firearms sold online, assembled or not, to have a serial number engraved in them. In addition, sellers would be required to run background checks on all buyers. The new rule would finally treat ghost guns as the real guns they are. While this is a welcome action, like so many other sensible gun control measures, it is long overdue. 

Since their invention, ghost guns have become increasingly popular, with over 68% of all online sellers becoming active after 2014. For buyers, it’s easy to find an online seller, pick out a gun kit, pay and have it delivered to their doorstep ready to assemble within weeks. There are no pesky background checks or waiting periods, which are points advertised on some sellers’ websites

Ghost guns are undoubtedly dangerous for many reasons. Firstly, the lack of registration needed to obtain a ghost gun makes them readily available to individuals who have been restricted from possessing firearms, allowing deadly weapons to easily flow into the hands of felons, domestic abusers and children. 

Recently, ghost guns have been showing up in the hands of children in schools at alarming rates. The 2019 shooting at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, California, left two students dead and three wounded in a matter of sixteen seconds. The weapon used? A .45-caliber pistol constructed from a ghost gun kit bought online. In November 2021, a 15-year-old Phoenix-area high school student shot and wounded a 16-year-old during an attempt to purchase a ghost gun in a school bathroom. In January 2022 at a Maryland high school, a 17-year-old student used a ghost gun to shoot and critically injure a 15-year-old classmate during a dispute.

If the problem of ghost guns in the possession of children at school doesn’t paint a dire enough picture, the number of domestic abusers who obtain these weapons is equally disturbing. In February of this year, a man opened fire in a church in Sacramento, killing his three young daughters and a bystander before turning the gun on himself. The shooter, restricted from possessing a firearm due to a restraining order filed against him, was able to obtain an unregistered, untraceable ghost gun.    

Ghost guns are clearly ending up in the hands of the wrong people and causing damage; the new rule announced by the Biden administration could stop this to some extent. By requiring background checks and registration, the firearms would not be able to be seamlessly purchased by those restricted from having them. After all, if a person is restricted from possessing a firearm, the rules should still apply, even if it is sold in pieces. A gun is a gun, no matter who assembles it. 

Like any potential rule related to gun regulation in the United States, the ghost gun rule is being met with intense criticism from gun rights groups and politicians alike. Republican Sen. Ted Cruz,, in collaboration with fellow Republicans Mike Lee , James Lankford and Mike Braun introduced a Congressional Review Act Joint Resolution of Disapproval just days after the new rule was announced. The senators argue that the new rule unfairly targets law-abiding gun owners and that it will not have any effect on crime rates. 

If the gun owners that the aforementioned senators are referring to are indeed law-abiding, then the proposed rule should not be a problem. They will still be able to purchase DIY gun kits online and have them shipped to their doorstep. Ghost guns are not being banned; there will just be safety measures added to the buying process. 

Ghost guns are real guns and they must be regulated. These firearms cannot be available for anyone, regardless of age or background to buy, construct and use. More lives will be lost if nothing is done. The new rule targeting ghost guns announced by the Biden administration is long overdue and must be adopted. 

Claire Schad is an Opinion Staff Writer. She can be reached at schadc@uci.edu