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Blumenthal Leads Colleagues in Urging DOJ & ATF to Clarify & Enforce Ghost Guns Rule

Ghost gun companies have continued to sell firearm components by claiming “nearly-complete frames & receivers” are not covered under federal law

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) led a group of fourteen senators in urging the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) to issue enforcement guidance and clarify the recently finalized Ghost Gun Rule. The rule regulates unfinished frames and receivers that are the core components used to construct ghost guns, which have become the preferred instruments for criminals and violent extremists and pose a severe threat to the public and law enforcement. Ghost gun companies have attempted to avoid the rule’s restrictions by claiming that they can still legally sell “nearly-complete” frames and receivers as standalone products, without tools and other materials to complete a ghost gun, without running afoul of the new rule.

“These companies have adopted the position that selling nearly-complete frames and receivers without the tools (commonly known as jigs) or instructions to complete them means that their products are not firearms under federal law,” the senators wrote to Attorney General Merrick Garland and ATF Director Steven Dettelbach. “Of the 100 companies previously known to sell unserialized and nearly-complete frames and receivers, dozens remain engaged in that business.”

The number of ghost guns recovered at potential crime scenes has grown exponentially, jumping from 1,758 in 2016 to 19,344 in 2021 alone. That these firearms are untraceable only makes it more difficult for law enforcement to develop leads and solve crimes. Between January 1, 2016, and March 4, 2021, ATF attempted to trace almost 23,946 recovered ghost guns, but could only complete 151 traces.

In addition to these nearly-complete frames and receivers, the senators noted that many companies have also been selling standalone tools and equipment with directions to help purchasers complete the firearms. With these untraceable, dangerous weapons still accessible to those who wish to cause harm, the senators called for stronger enforcement of the rule.  

“The final rule, however, is clear and unambiguous: a nearly-complete frame or receiver is a firearm. The rule does not cover only frames and receivers sold as part of a kit, but also frames and receivers that can be readily completed. Indeed, enforcing the rule only against sellers of kits would be a colossal loophole,” the senators continued.

“The Ghost Gun Rule was promulgated to stop the proliferation of ghost guns, mitigate the threat these firearms pose to our communities, and help law enforcement—at every level—do their jobs… It is now incumbent upon the Department and ATF to see that it is enforced—and enforced strongly,” the group concluded.  

In addition to Blumenthal, the letter was also signed by U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Bob Casey (D-PA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).

The full text of the letter is available here.