No, police won't soon be able to "track ghost guns", despite media claims

On August 24th, the Biden administration’s new regulations on unfinished firearm frames and receivers are set to take effect, though there are multiple lawsuits seeking to block enforcement of the measures beforehand. While the legal battles are underway, the media spin surrounding the new rules has also started in earnest, and gun owners should get ready for a deluge of misinformation in the days ahead.

I literally laughed out loud when I saw a recent headline from WSB-TV in Atlanta promising that “law enforcement will soon be able to track “ghost guns” once the Biden rules are in place. “Ghost guns” are, by the made-up definition created by gun control activists, unable to be traced because they’re unserialized, so if a firearm has a serial number it’s no longer a “ghost gun.”

That headline didn’t exactly instill me with confidence that WSB’s reporters knew enough about guns to adequately report on this issue, and once I started reading the story it only got worse.

Ghost guns are made by a private individual without a serial number that can help police track a gun if it’s used in a crime. They can be made with a 3D printer, mostly out of plastic, which might sometimes beat metal detectors, like at airports.

“Just think about going through airport security. My bracelet would go off,” said the top gun regulator for the ATF in Georgia, Dr. Scena Webb. “Our goal is to track those and make all of those serialized … It’s going to reduce those not being able to be traced.”

ATF said a ghost gun seized in a metro Atlanta case made mostly with a 3D printer might defeat a metal detector.

Webb said the 60 or so gun store owners or operators, gun makers and others who showed up in response to an invitation for a meeting with the ATF about new rules are some of the good ones.

“Aug. 24 is going to be the first effective date,” Webb said. “They are here to learn everything they can to stay on the right side with ATF.”

What on earth is this ATF official talking about? First of all, the new rules don’t say anything about 3D-printed firearms, at least not specifically. The new mandates involve 80% completed frames and receivers as well as gun-making kits that the ATF alleges can be “readily converted” to a fully-functional firearm, but not every home-built gun will be impacted by the regulations.

Unlike partially complete kits, the final rule state[s] articles, including unformed blocks of metal, liquid polymers, and other raw materials, that have not reached a stage of manufacture where they are clearly identifiable as an unfinished component of a frame or receiver are not frames or receivers. Defense Distributed, known for its Ghost Gunner CNC mills, has already suggested such receivers “will become the only legal and affordable method of making an unregistered metal lower” with its “zero-percent” receivers of unformed blocks of aluminum.

As for “staying on the right side with ATF”, is Webb suggesting that those FFLs who didn’t make respond to the agency’s invite are not some of the “good ones” simply because they stayed away? Maybe they understand the new rules already (or think they do). Maybe they don’t sell any 80% frames, receivers, or gun-making kits. It’s a needlessly antagonistic stance for Webb to take, but then, that seems to be the standard approach for the agency under Joe Biden, who declared that the firearms industry is the enemy when he was running for president and has done his best to turn the ATF into a gun control group with law enforcement powers since he assumed office.

Webb went on to tell WSB that the primary goal of the new rules is to increase the traceability of firearms, which, even if true, fails to address two fundamental flaws with the strategy. First, the idea that criminals who build their own guns are going to serialize them is nonsensical, but there’s also the fact that lawbreakers have been defacing firearms ever since serial numbers were first required as part of the Gun Control Act of 1968, and there’s nothing in the ATF’s new guidance that’s going to change that long-illegal practice.

I have doubts that the primary driver of the rule change is to make it easier to trace firearms recovered at crime scenes and not to make it easier to target companies like Polymer80 and the large number of Americans exercising their Second Amendment rights to build their own firearms. Hopefully we never have to see how these new rules play out because they’ll be iced by the federal courts before they can take effect, but I can tell you right now that if they’re enforced beginning August 24th, they’re not going to stop bad actors with violent intentions from getting ahold of a gun; whether it’s building one themselves, buying one on the black market, or stealing one (or more) from a legal gun owner.