Biden to announce new nominee to head ATF and rule targeting «ghost guns»

President Biden on Monday is set to announce his new nominee to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives after the White House was forced to pull its first ATF nominee in September due to concerns from lawmakers.

Mr. Biden will nominate Steve Dettelbach, a former U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, to run the federal law enforcement agency. «[Dettelbach] should be a noncontroversial candidate because he has a long record of working in law enforcement,» a senior administration official said.  

In 2018, Dettelbach lost his race to be Ohio’s attorney general. During the campaign, he advocated for universal background checks for those who wish to purchase guns, reinstating the assault weapons ban, and restricting guns for people with serious mental health problems, according to WOSU.  

If confirmed by the Senate, Dettelbach would be the first permanent ATF director since 2015. 

Mr. Biden had originally tapped David Chipman to lead the agency, but pulled the nomination after several Republican lawmakers and Senator Angus King, an Independent who caucuses with Democrats, voiced their opposition to the pick. After his nomination was withdrawn, Chipman criticized the lawmakers for their opposition, telling «CBS Evening News» anchor and managing editor Norah O’Donnell that the gun industry «profits by gun violence itself.»  

The Biden administration on Monday is also announcing a new rule to regulate the manufacturing and sale of «ghost guns» — homemade firearms that lack serial numbers, making them difficult for law enforcement to trace. The new rule will require the guns — which can be made with 3D printers or sold as assembly kits — to be treated like other firearms made and sold in the U.S.  

Commercial manufacturers of ghost gun assembly kits will now be required to include serial numbers. Commercial sellers will also need to be federally licensed, run background checks before selling a homemade gun kit and keep records of the purchases for as long as they are in business. The current rule allows sellers to purge records after 20 years. 

A senior administration official asserted during a Sunday press briefing that «this rule operates within the legal boundaries of the Constitution.»

This final regulatory rule on ghost guns comes one year after the Biden White House tasked the Justice Department with looking into such weapons after mass shootings in Boulder and Atlanta in 2021.  

Ghost guns have recently been cited by metropolitan police chiefs and politicians as one of the causes of increased crime rates across the country. 

«In New York City in 2019, we recovered 47 ghost guns. In 2020, we recovered 150 ghost guns. In 2021, that number jumped up to 375. And so far in 2022, we have 85 compared to 20 last year,» NYPD Chief of Intelligence Tom Galati said last month. «That’s a 325% increase of seizures of ghost guns since last year.» 

But ghost guns are used in only a fraction of gun crimes. About 12% of guns seized by the NYPD so far this year were ghost guns, according to the New York Post, although data is limited because of how difficult it is to trace them.  

In a CBS News poll released on Sunday, Americans listed crime as the third-highest priority — after the economy and inflation — that they thought Mr. Biden and his administration should address.

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