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Louis Jacobson
By Louis Jacobson January 5, 2022

No legislative ban, but executive action would tighten regulation of “ghost guns”

As a presidential candidate, Joe Biden said he would "enact legislation to prohibit all online sales of firearms, ammunition, kits, and gun parts."

He hasn't fulfilled all of this promise, but he's made some steps in that direction.

No legislation to ban the online sale of firearms and ammunition has advanced in Congress, but another bill — the Bipartisan Background Checks Actpassed the House in March 2021. It was approved largely on partisan lines, with 291 Democrats and eight Republicans supporting it.

The bill includes a provision that requires a background check for people who want to buy guns online. This provision falls short of the ban Biden promised, but it would tighten the regulation of online sales.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has promised a vote on the measure in his chamber, but based on past votes on measures to tighten gun regulation, it faces almost impossible odds. (We separately rated a promise related to this bill Stalled.)

Another effort being pursued by the Biden administration has better odds.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has proposed a new rule for "ghost guns," which are kits sold online or by mail that can be used to make functioning guns. The proposed rule would make the purchase of those kits subject to background checks and other regulations.

The ATF rule could be finalized as soon as early 2022, and as an executive branch action, it could be accomplished without any role by Congress. However, it could be subject to legal challenge.

Neither the legislation nor the rule change would fully ban online sales of firearms, and neither has been enacted yet. But the ATF's proposed rule, which the administration could enact on its own, would tighten regulations on one type of online firearm sale. So we rate this promise In the Works.

Our Sources, main index page for the Bipartisan Background Checks Act, accessed Jan. 4, 2021

House roll call vote on the Bipartisan Background Checks Act, March 11, 2021

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, proposed rule, May 21, 2021

Interview with Adzi Vokhiwa, federal affairs director for the gun-policy group Giffords, Jan. 4, 2022

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