AUSTIN — Texas pro-gun activists and political leaders are condemning President Joe Biden’s announcement of a new effort to regulate “ghost guns.”
Biden announced Monday that his administration would set more strict regulations for unregulated, untraceable weapons made from kits.
Known as “ghost guns,” these weapons are particularly frustrating to policymakers and gun regulators because they can be purchased online, which means they can be bought by anyone regardless of their age or criminal record.
“It is basic common sense,” Biden said.
Biden said in 2021, law enforcement agencies reported 20,000 suspected ghost guns to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, a 10-fold increase from 2016. Because the firearms lack serial numbers, the ATF also said it has been able to trace fewer than 1% of ghost guns to their owners, making it difficult to preserve accountability.
“A felon, a terrorist, a domestic abuser can go from gun kit to a gun in as little as 30 minutes,” Biden said.
Following the announcement, Texas pro-gun advocates, leaders and lobbyists were quick to condemn Biden’s stance.
“President Biden’s latest gun control scheme is misguided at best and pandering at worst,” said Andi Turner, legislative director for Texas State Rifle Association. “Felons aren’t going to pay one bit of attention to these new regulations and if they were, the White House certainly would have laid claim to how much violent crime would be reduced in their announcement. This is a ‘feel-good’ measure that will only impact those who are already law-abiding citizens.”
The National Rifle Association too in a statement said the action sends the wrong message to violent criminals as the “ban will not affect them.”
“An administration that’s truly sincere and resolute about curbing violent crime rates would do one thing: take violent criminals off the streets immediately,” it said in a statement.
The crackdown comes as the country faces skyrocketing gun violence.
There were nearly 700 mass shooting incidents in the U.S. in 2021, according to The Trace, a news organization dedicated to covering guns in America. And about 20,726 people died from gun violence in the U.S. in 2021, up from about 15,000 in 2016, it said.
According to Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control advocacy group, an average of 3,288 people die by guns in Texas, making the state the 29th highest rate of gun deaths in the country. In addition, an average of 288 Texans children and teens die from guns violence every year, where 54% of those deaths are homicides.
Of all homicides in Texas, 73% involve a gun, compared to 74% nationally, it said.
Gun ownership is particularly divisive in Texas where at least 37% of Texans own a gun, according to Rand, a public policy research organization.
During the last legislative session, Texas was one of six states to pass a “constitutional carry” law, which allows Texans to carry handguns without a license or training. It went into effect Sept. 1.
Gov. Greg Abbott, who has pushed for deregulated gun ownership, also chimed in on the announcement saying in a Tweet that he would always protect Second Amendment rights.
“Biden is punishing law-abiding citizens instead of enforcing existing gun laws & reducing the backlog of complaints,” he said.
Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz said the regulations are a way of Democrats “trying to distract from the failure of gun control policies in Democrat-run cities.”
“‘Ghost gun’ is a name intended to scare people,” he said.
The regulation Biden announced would address gaps in the government’s ability to track these guns by requiring background checks before kit purchases and the inclusion of serial numbers on some parts used to assemble weapons so that they can be traced.
“It’s no longer a ghost,” Biden said. “It has a return address. And it’s going to help save lives, reduce crime and get more criminals off the streets.”