The guns, which are assembled at home and lack tracking numbers, have been increasingly recovered at crime scenes.
United States President Joe Biden is set to announce a new Department of Justice (DoJ) rule meant to crack down on so-called “ghost guns“.
The weapons, which can be bought as kits to be assembled at home and lack federal tracking serial numbers, have been increasingly recovered at crime scenes across the US in recent years, according to the White House.
In 2021, law enforcement agencies reported 20,000 recovered suspected ghost guns to The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). The figure represented a ten-fold increase from 2016.
“These are the criminal’s weapon of choice,” a Biden administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told reporters in a preview of the announcement.
The new DoJ rule says that manufacturers of some types of “ghost gun” kits – known as “buy, build, shoot” kits – will be subject to the same restrictions as firearm manufacturers under the Gun Control Act. That would require manufacturers of the kits to get federal licenses and include serial numbers on key components of the weapon.
The rule would also require federally licensed dealers and gunsmiths who receive guns without serial numbers to “serialise” the weapon with federal authorities before selling it to a customer.
It also seeks to close loopholes in order to ensure that all firearms are subject to federal registration, even those where key firing components are sold in multiple parts.
Meanwhile, the rule requires firearms dealers to retain key documents until they go out of business. They had previously been permitted to destroy most records after 20 years.
Biden had called on the DoJ to issue rules related to ghost guns in April 2021 following a spate of mass shootings, which have become common in the US in recent decades.
He has called on Congress to pass sweeping federal gun control measures but has faced an uphill battle on the politically fraught issue.
The White House also announced on Monday that Biden would name former federal prosecutor Steve Dettelbach to serve as Director of ATF.