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New ATF Gun Definition Is Official – But Will It Save Lives?

Gun control may not stop crime, but statists have another reason to love it.

The latest ATF gun definition is now in effect. Last year, the DOJ, under the guidance of President Joe Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland, went to work redefining the firearm in a campaign against what the left likes to call “ghost guns.” As usual, anti-gunners exaggerate both the percentage of these homemade weapons and the new regulation’s potential to save lives while downplaying the infringement upon the right to keep and bear arms safeguarded – albeit not nearly as effectively as it once was – by the Second Amendment.

ATF Gun Definition

The new ATF gun definition “makes it clear that parts kits that are readily convertible to functional weapons, or functional ‘frames’ or ‘receivers’ of weapons, are subject to the same regulations as traditional firearms,” according to a press release from the DOJ’s Office of Public Affairs. The regulation change was proposed and posted in the Federal Register in April but was subject to a 90-day open comment period before it could take effect.

Under the new rule, background checks will be required on all firearm kits containing even a partially manufactured frame or receiver with which one might “readily make a gun.” Any homemade firearm acquired by a licensed dealer must have a serial number added to it, and federal licensees must keep transaction records as long as they remain open, rather than just 20 years. According to the press release, the ATF received “approximately 45,240 reports of suspected PMFs [privately made firearms] recovered by law enforcement, including 692 homicide or attempted homicide investigations” from January 2016 to December 2021. Consider the implications of those numbers a moment: 45,240 firearms were “recovered” by police that are only suspected of being PMFs during that period, and just 692 of those were involved in homicide or attempted homicide investigations. There were more than 10,000 firearm homicides in 2016 alone, according to Statista, who gathers data from annual reports of the CDC and FBI.

Arguing With a Brick Wall

GettyImages-1408487688 ATF gun definition

(Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

The official DOJ announcement concluded with what had the feel of a boast: “[D]uring the 90-day open comment period, the ATF received more than 290,000 comments, the highest number of comments submitted to a proposed rule in the Justice Department’s history.” Following the link to the final rule and clicking on the comments tab revealed a whopping 249,295 comments, of which a mere 500 can be viewed. Two dozen were chosen at random from the 20 pages available, of which just two offered support for the new rule. The rest ran the gamut from polite requests and logical arguments against the change to insults and allegations of corruption, and from as brief as a single sentence to quite verbose. “Please do not follow with this proposal, it is an infringement on law abiding citizens,” one read. Another two said simply: “Shall not be infringed.”

But it was all for naught. The public commenting period is a mere formality of law; the statists in charge of the executive agency responsible for this novel interpretation of the Second Amendment are only required to accept and publish comments, not act on them. The true benefit of the 90-day wait is that it gives forewarning and a bit of time for people to make their purchases before it’s too late.

Right Solution, Wrong Problem?

The notoriously anti-gun Everytown for Gun Safety has a database tracking shootings with so-called ghost guns. From June 2013 to April 2022, there are 90 incidents reported. A look at Statista and a June 2022 report from Giffords suggests that, in roughly the same span, the number of homicides committed with firearms – not shootings in general – was somewhere in the ballpark of 96,000. So, the so-called ghost guns – which include commercially produced firearms with illegally obscured serial numbers, of course – account for maybe as many as 0.09% of the firearm homicides over nearly a decade.

Much like raising the minimum purchasing age, enhancing background checks, or even banning certain types of weapons entirely, as was done from ’94 to ’04, going after homemade firearms won’t have a noticeable effect – if any at all – on homicide rates. For that matter, there are at least a couple of ways around this regulation that wouldn’t prove too difficult to anyone already prepared to complete a DIY kit gun.

But this isn’t simply the wrong solution to the right problem; it’s the right solution to the wrong problem. The new ATF gun definition might not stop crime, but it will further restrict the right to keep and bear arms, as well as improve the government’s ability to keep tabs on who has what weapons. Statists throughout history – whether they call themselves Democrats in America or go by any other name anywhere else at any other point in time – crave control. They want the people bound to their whims. In the best of cases, it is – in their eyes, at least – for our own good. The more sinister amongst them, however, have far less altruistic motives. In either case, an armed citizenry is an obstacle to be removed – the problem in need of a solution like progressive gun control. Preventing crime is just the tried-and-true excuse.

Read More From James Fite

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