Biden's 'ghost gun' rules were needed, but voters must step up for true reform

St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial board (TNS)
President Joe Biden holds a ghost gun during an event in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, D.C., on Monday, April 11, 2022. (Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/TNS)

President Joe Biden on Monday finally carried through on a promise to rein in “ghost guns” — guns assembled from kits that are sold without serial numbers, allowing anyone to own an untraceable weapon. Biden announced new federal requirements including that such kits have serial numbers and that background checks be conducted on those who buy them.

Because of the gun lobby’s stranglehold on congressional Republicans, these commonsense changes had to be instituted not by legislation but by executive order, which isn’t ideal. In announcing the reforms, Biden properly made another pitch for universal background checks, bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and an end to civil liability immunity that the gun industry enjoys for the mayhem it enables.

Those aren’t reforms a president can impose unilaterally — they would need congressional approval, which is unlikely under the current Congress. But there was value in reminding America that, even as the body count rises —with Tuesday’s attack on New York’s subway system as just the latest example — the gun lobby and its GOP enablers deserve to be considered accomplices.

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How unreasonable is that unholy alliance? The guns made from unassembled firearms kits that the gun lobby thinks shouldn’t be regulated are increasingly showing up at crime scenes. And why wouldn’t they? Nothing’s better for a criminal than an untraceable gun.

The whole point of buying a kit instead of a finished gun is that there isn’t a serial number on it. What rationale could anyone — let alone conservatives and gun owners who claim to be in favor of “law and order” — possibly have against simply requiring the same kind of identification on those kits that are already required on finished guns?

A statement by a National Rifle Association official on Fox News Monday was illuminating: “An administration that’s truly sincere and resolute about curbing violent crime rates would do one thing: take violent criminals off the streets immediately.” But cracking down on ghost guns is useless against criminals, said the official, “because this ‘ban’ will not affect them.”

The NRA thinks the way to confront violent criminals is to … allow the continued sale of weapons that cannot be traced when they’re found at crime scenes. And the organization thinks that because some who engage in illegal gun trafficking would ignore the new requirements, that’s reason to not have any requirements.

What a novel approach to crime-fighting: Just get rid of all laws, and there will be no more lawbreakers!

The ghost gun reforms were needed, but there are limits to how much a president can do without Congress. Polls show Americans overwhelmingly support reasonable restrictions on firearms, including everything outlined by Biden on Monday — and yet Republicans go unpunished election after election for preventing those reforms. Only when that changes will the bleeding stop.

— From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial board (TNS).