by Bob Barr
Gun control measures enacted in recent decades have failed to stop mass shootings. This has baffled Democrats in much the same way a dog chases its tail but never quite catches it. Even the liberal Los Angeles Times appeared exasperated by the latest criminal mass shooting near the state Capitol in Sacramento, lamenting that, while state “lawmakers have enacted the nation’s toughest gun control laws [they] remain confounded by how to stem mass shootings.”
At least this one Democrat mouthpiece actually seemed for a brief moment to recognize that gun control is not the answer to criminal gun violence. Yet, they remain afraid to say so out loud.
In this conundrum, what does the Left do? That’s an easy question to answer — they call on President Biden (as they did with presidents Obama and Clinton before him) to propose more gun control. This scenario confirms once again the definition of “insanity” often attributed to Albert Einstein, as “doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different result.”
The latest gun-control boogeyman for the Left is the “ghost gun” — an apparition with no more actual substance than were the ghosts of Christmases past, present, and future that tormented Ebenezer Scrooge. Unlike the ghosts in A Christmas Carol, however, the “ghost gun” apparition on which Biden now has seized, is a political maneuver rather than a morality play.
The term “ghost gun” is a moniker conjured by gun control advocates to scare the uninformed into believing such devices are extremely dangerous, are the weapon of choice for mass murderers, and that if regulated, will stem the tide of such criminal activities as took place recently in Sacramento (where stolen handguns were used in the murder spree). That the narrative does not fit the facts matters not at all; what matters is the narrative as a means to open further the door to restricting the right to keep and bear arms as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to our Constitution.
So, what are the facts? It is actually quite simple. Criminals most often obtain firearms in one of three ways, all illegal: they steal them, they purchase them on the black market, or they have someone who is not a criminal purchase the guns for them (the “straw purchaser”).
Homemade guns, that is firearms constructed by individuals from parts legally purchased or manufactured with 3D printer, are occasionally used by criminals, but not often. After all, why take the time to assemble a gun from numerous parts when it is far easier to steal one or buy one from a fellow criminal?
What is it that makes homemade, or “ghost” guns strike such fear into Democrats’ hearts as to require the heavy hand of federal regulation? The problem is that such firearms do not bear an imprinted serial number traceable by federal law enforcement. To the Left, the only firearms that deserve to be protected by the Second Amendment are ones that are traceable (and therefore, reachable by government). This is not a new idea.
The European Union, for example, has long sought to force manufacturers to stamp every component part of every firearm with an identifying serial number. If Biden’s proposed regulation concerning serial numbers stamped on every “ghost” gun part stands, it will almost certainly push the European plan across the finish line (which then will become the template for further traceable markings in the U.S.).
By taking the regulatory redefinition route, Biden is following the precedent set by Donald Trump, who in 2018 directed his then-Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, to change the wording of the regulatory definition of a “machine gun,” so as to include bump stocks with no moving parts at all. That regulatory sleight-of-hand is still today working its way through the federal court system.
At the same time as he announced his regulatory crusade against ghost guns, Biden revealed his intention to name as head of the ATF, former Obama United States Attorney from Ohio, Steve Dettelbach.
The stage now is set for a lengthy legal battle over this latest, side-door effort to further limit the guarantees enshrined in the Second Amendment. If eventually upheld by the Supreme Court, the “ghost gun” maneuver will open the door to countless more regulatory restrictions.
It will be a constitutional ghost that keeps on taking.
Bob Barr represented Georgia’s Seventh District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He served as the United States Attorney in Atlanta from 1986 to 1990 and was an official with the CIA in the 1970s. He now practices law in Atlanta, Georgia and serves as head of Liberty Guard.