By addressing the danger posed by untraceable ghost guns, the Biden administration hopes to prevent extremist groups or perpetrators of domestic violence from evading justice.
DETROIT—Last spring, an illegal gun manufacturer operating out of a residential home in Detroit was busted for producing a type of weapon that is particularly tough to track: ghost guns. Now, a year later, the Biden administration is tackling the emerging risks posed by ghost guns to Michiganders and getting trafficked and illegal guns off the streets.
Ghost guns are a fairly new problem in Michigan, said Detroit police Chief James Craig.
“There’s been a lot of conversation across this country about ghost guns being used in crimes, violent crimes,” Craig explained at the time. “But this is the first time, at least during my tenure, that we have seen or come across a ghost gun.”
Ghost guns sound like things out of a horror movie or a comic book, but they’re real—and they’re a real problem. Ghost guns are custom-built or otherwise custom-modified that lack serial numbers making them hard to track and easy to traffic. According to Detroit police, that was their first appearance in the area.
Craig linked illegal gun manufacturers like the residential gunmaker in Detroit who exploits a loophole in Michigan law to shooting incidents in Detroit. Because the problem is so new and the result is so hard to track, it can be hard to know just how pervasive ghost guns have become in Michigan but overall the amount of ghost guns encountered by law enforcement is on the rise. It’s currently legal to construct your own firearm, and Michigan law continues to lean on federal law looking for a solution to the emerging issues related to these guns.
Here are some of the ways President Joe Biden’s plans will keep Michiganders safe from violence caused by illegal guns.
Biden’s Approach to Ghost (Gun) Busting
Ghosts guns are built from individual components. They even come in do-it-yourself kits. The pieces of a ghost gun do not need serial numbers and can be sold without background checks, meaning they can easily come into the hands of criminals and can make it exceedingly difficult to find the perpetrator of crimes. They can also fall into the hands of domestic abusers and domestic terrorists.
Anyone who couldn’t pass the background checks that lawful, responsible gun owners go through can circumvent the process with ghost guns. Michigan law specifically forbids people convicted of felonies from owning firearms, for instance. As explained by Giffords, this makes ghost guns perfect for criminal use.
By addressing the danger posed by untraceable ghost guns, the Biden administration hopes to prevent extremist groups or perpetrators of domestic violence from evading justice. In America, 53 women die to gun violence a month and domestic terrorism is on the rise. Making it harder to construct or own a ghost gun can help law enforcement when those tragedies arise.
A Different Kind of Traffic Report
Gun trafficking is a lot like spreading kits around for ghost guns, in that it makes the perpetrators of gun violence harder to find. This is done by obtaining, moving, and selling guns without the proper documentation. That means a gun used in a crime can be difficult or impossible to track to an owner.
As explained by a Michigan law firm, gun traffickers have two types of clients. Some are people who are not legally allowed to own firearms for one reason or another, like lacking a license or being prohibited from owning one because of a criminal history. The other types of clients traffickers have is people looking for the same anonymity as a ghost gun owner. Trafficked guns are not tracked, meaning it can be impossible to find who owned it after it is used in a crime.
And it isn’t just guns being brought into Michigan and sold illegally. Guns trafficked out of Michigan turned up in Boston in November.
To combat gun trafficking, Biden is ordering the Justice Department to collect data on gun trafficking. The report that would generate would help law enforcement combat trafficking efforts.
Stopping Violence Before It Starts
Though mass shootings were less common in 2020 thanks to the coronavirus, 2021 has seen nearly 50 major shootings in the past month alone. And despite the pandemic reducing the rate of mass shootings, 2020 was the deadliest year in decades in terms of general gun violence.
But community violence prevention efforts have been effective in stopping those tragedies before they happen.
Biden’s actions on preventing the public safety issue of gun violence also focus on community action. The administration is investing $5 billion in community anti-violence programs nationwide.
Community groups that focus on violence prevention in Michigan exist across the state and engage the issue of gun violence in a number of ways.
For instance, Ceasefire Detroit takes Detroiters on probation for violent offenses and provides them with social service resources and job training programs to facilitate reentry to society and make them less likely to fall back into violent patterns.
On the other side of the state, Kalamazoo’s Group Violence Intervention connects people on potentially violent paths to community resources who can help transition to less hazardous situations.
Both groups use community resources to prevent violent crime, often perpetrated through gun violence, before it happens. Paired with efforts to help law enforcement solve crimes quickly and accurately after they do occur, the Biden roadmap to combat illegal firearms and deaths resulting from gun violence has a wide focus.
Additionally, Biden appointed David Chipman as the new head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF), created model legislation for states to enact that would ensure someone in a point of personal crisis can’t use guns in a regrettable way through temporarily limited access, and making sure guns are classified properly in government systems.
“Gun violence in this country is an epidemic, and it’s an international embarrassment,” Biden told reporters in the White House Rose Garden when announcing these policies. “The idea that we have so many people dying every single day from gun violence in America is a blemish on our character as a nation.”