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Will the Biden admin’s new rule on ‘ghost guns’ have an effect in Utah?

A close-up of a black semi-automatic pistol, showing the trigger, trigger guard, grip and ejection port.
Getty Images/iStockphoto
A close-up of a black semi-automatic pistol, showing the trigger, trigger guard, grip and ejection port.

President Joe Biden announced Monday a rule to crack down on so-called ghost guns. The privately built and untraceable firearms are often made with individual parts or a “buy build shoot” kit.

Until they’re assembled, they’re not legally considered firearms, which allows manufacturers to skirt normal regulations, like marking them with serial numbers. Because of that, they cannot be easily traced by law enforcement. With Biden’s new rule, the federal government will now regulate ghost guns the same as any other firearm.

Darin Kendall, the general manager of Impact Guns in Ogden, said this will have little impact on Utah.

“As far as the initial purchase of a gun, nothing is registered with the state at all other than doing the background check,” he said. “That's the only thing that you do not have with a so-called ghost gun.”

Though the ghost guns will now be traceable, Kendall said it won’t change gun crime rates in the state.

According to the Utah Department of Health, the firearm-related death rate in Utah increased by nearly 27% from 2009 to 2018, and it’s remained consistently higher than the national rate for the last decade.

Terri Gilfillan, the board chair for the Gun Violence Prevention Center of Utah, said this law could help curb that increase — because it will get untraceable guns off the nation’s streets, and here.

“It's about time, and I think it is absolutely a good policy that needs to be advanced,” she said. “What we've seen in 2021 is about 20,000 suspected ghost guns [nationally] were recovered by law enforcement. That is a tenfold increase from 2016.”

People can still get around a background check in Utah by going through a private seller, but Gilfillan said these guns will now have serial numbers, making them traceable, and that’s a huge step forward for the state.

Leah is the Morning Edition associate producer at KUER.
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