By Rose Onda
President Joe Biden plans to announce Thursday an effort to limit so-called ghost guns — weapons sold without serial numbers or other identifying information — and to nominate a figure from a major gun control group as director of the federal agency that regulates firearms.
By this, Biden will be making his first foray into efforts to control gun violence since taking office.
The executive actions come after two recent massacres and some activists in anti-violence groups have expressed disappointment with the administration for putting gun regulation behind other priorities.
One of the priorities is the Coronavirus relief bill.
Biden recently announced a $2 trillion infrastructure proposal.
The administration’s moves, which Biden plans to announce at an event with Attorney-General Merrick Garland, are relatively limited in scope but mark a sharp shift in course from the Trump administration.
The administration has consistently deferred to the National Rifle Association and other gun rights groups and opposed measures to expand gun regulation.
A senior Biden administration official who briefed reporters on Wednesday noted that the moves were “an initial set of actions the administration is taking to address gun violence” and that further steps could come later.
The official spoke under the condition that they are not to be identified by name.
The most concrete of Biden’s proposals will be new federal rules aimed at ghost guns, made from kits that purchasers can assemble into weapons with relative ease and a few basic tools.
The kits are not classified as firearms, which means a person can buy them without a background check and they can be sold without the identification stamps required for guns.
The sales of such kits have grown rapidly in recent years, and ghost guns have increasingly been showing up at crime scenes.
Law enforcement officials in California have estimated that roughly three in 10 guns recovered from crimes in the state are ghost weapons.
In February, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer filed a lawsuit against a Nevada-based seller of such kits, saying that “untraceable ghost guns are the emerging weapon of choice for criminals” in Los Angeles and other major cities.
Under Biden’s plan, the Justice Department will propose a new rule within 30 days that would require background checks for purchases of ghost guns, according to the senior administration official.
The rule will likely involve reclassifying the kits as firearms under federal law.