Have you ever seen a “ghost gun?” I’m an avid hunter, target shooter, and 2nd Amendment advocate. I thought I had seen about every type of gun there is in existence. I’ve heard mention of these evil weapons several times in the past. But now, “ghost guns” have taken a new form. And their history, apparently hidden for centuries, was made front and center by our Commander in Chief.
Of course, Joe Biden is an expert on everything to do with guns. Remember back in 2013 when Joe was doing his thing? He appeared around the nation promoting getting rid of “weapons of war” — AR-15s, which are NOT such — and made fun of anyone that keeps such guns for protection. He proved just how little he knows about guns:
“If you want to protect yourself, get a double-barrel shotgun,” Biden said in an interview with Parents Magazine back in 2013. “You don’t need an AR-15. It’s harder to aim, it’s harder to use, and you don’t need 30 rounds to protect yourself. Buy a shotgun. Buy a shotgun.”
Heck, why not just make your own ghost gun. According to the President, thousands of evil 2nd Amendment proponents do just that. And they’re stalking helpless innocent people to shoot them at random!
I’m sure you realize that’s not true.
In the Rose Garden last week there was a prop waiting for President Biden: a hunk of polymer that could be turned into a handgun at home with a bit of patience, a few tools – no more than an electric drill, a set of files, and some sandpaper – and most importantly, no serial number. According to the White House, it was a so-called ghost gun, the “weapon of choice,” according to the White House, “for criminals, for terrorists, for domestic abusers.” And for at least one Senate candidate who is none of those things. Blake Masters owns a handful of ghost guns. He built them himself.
The Arizona Republican certainly doesn’t fit the administration’s description of a typical ghost gun owner: He is an upstanding member of his community and a law-abiding citizen. Nor does he share the sinister view of these weapons espoused at the White House. He views building a gun at home as an exciting hobby and a legitimate political statement, not as an urgent threat to public safety.
Ghost guns are “very legal” and “very cool,” Masters tweeted along with a picture of an AR-15- style rifle that he said he made himself. “But now, thanks to Biden’s new rule change,” he added, “I would be a felon if I made another one just like it today.”
Not quite, says Matthew Larosiere. After reviewing the 364-page rule released by Biden’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, an attorney with the Firearms Policy Coalition said that Masters “might be skipping some legal misunderstanding.”
The new ATF rule expands the existing definition of a firearm to include so-called “buy, build, shoot” kits like the one Biden palmed in the Rose Garden and said could be built “in as little as 30 minutes.” Want to assemble your gun from a kit, like the “Polymer80,” which includes all the parts and tools needed to assemble a pistol out of the box? You still can, but now a background check is required, and the materials must be marked with a serial number.
However, the new rule does not outlaw “80% receivers.” Also known as “lowers,” they can be ordered as a raw aluminum block, then milled with a machine and considerable skill to go the remaining 20% that is necessary to complete a functioning firearm. Hobbyists can purchase those receivers, the part of a gun that houses the required mechanisms to fire, and then use their tools to build a rifle without a serial number. No background check is required. That is, at least for now.
Biden promised that his new ATF rule was “just the start.” His stated goal was, “Outright banning the sale and possession of un-serialized guns.” Hence the current controversy over ghost guns, an issue that brings the legal traditions of the 2nd Amendment into focus with evolving technology as regulators complain they can’t keep pace. In light of that more significant debate, according to Larosiere, Masters was voicing “a genuine concern” that gun enthusiasts share, namely a fear “that an unaccountable bureau has aspirations to criminalize one of the purest exercises; of the fundamental right to bear arms.”
For Masters, that began in his Tucson garage. He started with a block of aluminum, open-source computer files from the Internet, and an expensive CNC milling machine. It concluded with a rifle, and he said that he has “probably made four or five successfully by now.” At first, the build was “definitely a weekend project.” Aluminum shavings would block a sensor somewhere, or a bug in the code would buck the whole process. “Things can go wrong anytime you mix hardware with software,” he explained, admitting that along the way, “I ruined a few lowers.”
“It’s harder than they want to say in the Rose Garden,” Masters reported. He admits that after considerable practice, “I could easily do one in probably a half-hour.” But where Biden sees a sinister and obvious danger to the public welfare, Masters sees a check on the government — a modern process whereby digital code provides a do-it-yourself greenlight to a centuries-old right to “keep and bear arms.”
Masters believes that when the Founders penned the 2nd Amendment, they guaranteed the right to own guns and anticipated that citizens would build them. “In the colonial days, you were expected to know how not just to fire your weapon, but to reload it,” he said, “and probably to fix low-level things that went wrong with it.” If gunsmithing wasn’t in your wheelhouse, then “there were people in your community that could make them if you didn’t know how to do that yourself.”
Although neighborhood gunsmiths hardly exist these days, Masters believes that the principles of individual gun ownership still hold. What is strange, he said, is “this idea that everything needs to be centralized, regulated, dictated, and promulgated from Washington, D.C. That is a very modern idea.”
Technology has eclipsed even that contemporary sentiment, according to Masters. The Biden administration, he believes, is just trying to play catch up. “They want to shut down hobbyists and enthusiasts like me, and ultimately, they want people not to have this capacity,” he said.
Joe Biden offered a very different reading of history in the Rose Garden. “I support the 2nd Amendment. You have a right,” he said. But those liberties are not unlimited: “From the very beginning, the Second Amendment didn’t say you can own any gun you want, big as you want.” You couldn’t buy a cannon when the 2nd Amendment was ratified, the president asserted, and certain people couldn’t buy a gun at all. “It’s nothing new,” Biden said. “It’s just rational.”
New laws are also likely a non-starter in a sharply divided legislature, a political reality that Biden has acknowledged from the beginning of his administration. He directed Attorney General Merrick Garland to take up the issue unilaterally last year, he said Monday, “because I was having trouble getting anything passed in the Congress, but I used what we call ‘regulatory authority.’” Gun control advocates signaled their approval with applause there in the Rose Garden, and Everytown for Gun Safety, a nonprofit that advocates for gun control, heralded the new rule as “a massive win.” But the demographics of gun politics are shifting, and the issue may not automatically be a winner for Democrats.
Uncertainty during the pandemic fueled a surge of gun purchases, not just among the traditional and overwhelmingly white NRA crowd. According to John Roman, a researcher at the University of Chicago, “new gun owners during the pandemic were much more likely to be younger and people of color compared to pre-pandemic gun owners in America.” Of course, those numbers represent purchased firearms, not ghost guns built at home. This means Masters may find himself in an exotic political territory.
If he wins Arizona’s Republican primary, he will challenge incumbent Democrat Sen. Mark Kelly, a staunch advocate for stricter firearm regulation and the husband of former Rep. Gabby Giffords, who suffered a severe brain injury as a result of an assassination attempt in 2011. Before his time in the Senate, Kelly helped co-found the Giffords PAC, which emphasized the congresswoman’s tragic experience with gun violence and focused heavily on the issue. The argument over ghost guns will undoubtedly play a role if Masters wins his party’s nomination.
Biden previewed that debate, noting that law enforcement reported to the ATF that nearly 20,000 “suspected ghost guns” had been recovered in criminal investigations. “Law enforcement is sounding the alarms. Our communities are paying the price. And we’re acting,” the president said.
Masters said this was just “the new scary thing” and accused the White House of making a play to “appeal to people’s emotions.” The effect of the new regulation, Masters added, was a paradox that “stops law-abiding people.” Moreover, the new rule was met with confusion upon its release.
Larosiere, the attorney with the Firearms Policy Coalition, summed up the general feeling among gun advocates, saying that “it is clear” that the end goal of Biden’s ATF is “to raise the cost and complexity of home building, with a clear end goal of rendering it illegal.”
He noted one provision of the rule, which would require federal firearm licensed dealers (FFLs) to mark any gun without a serial number that comes into their possession, even if just temporarily for repairs. “This sets up a horrible roadblock for any FFL working on such a firearm, or even holding it overnight,” Larosiere said, and “the likely result here is that many FFLs will refuse to work with privately made firearms at all, thereby alienating owners for literally no reason.”
Masters finds the Democrats’ ghost-guns argument “totally disingenuous.” He believes it targets law-abiding citizens instead of criminals who would find it “way easier to buy a gun with a straw purchase or on the black market.” Like the Gun Owners of America, others are already preparing a legal challenge to the rule that they call “pure gun control” and claim “will do far more than the White House is pretending.”
Meanwhile, a land war in Europe has made private gun ownership less of an academic question. Some conservatives see it as a convenient, even fundamental, issue. It’s hypocritical, they say, for an administration that is arming a foreign population to the teeth to try and restrict gun ownership at home. “They are always saying,” Masters told RCP, “‘what could you possibly need an AR-15 for – that is a weapon of war.’ But then they are cheering on the people of Ukraine who have small arms, and even some Javelin missiles that we supply and are using them quite effectively.”
Biden engaged the same point on the campaign trail and as president, while making the opposite point. “If you think you need weapons to take on the government,” he told an audience at the White House last April, “you need F-15s and maybe some nuclear weapons.” While most on the left played the line off as witty hyperbole, the president was mocked by many on the right for those words. Masters characterizes Biden’s statement as “remarkable” and “incoherent.”
“No, actually, people can make their guns and own their guns free of any sort of federal registry is important,” Masters said before pointing to COVID lockdowns in other countries as a counterfactual. “It’s what prevents things like Australia or the Canadian experience, martial law basically, from happening here.”
These kinds of worst-case scenario conversations are rare on Capitol Hill. Some on the left might even find them uncomfortable. No doubt, if Masters makes it to the Senate, a few of his new colleagues will find his libertarian streak unsettling. But the former tech expert is blunt about a future that he says too many in Congress are ill-equipped to understand.
“Maybe they’re very wise in some sense, but some are also pushing 80,” he said of his octogenarian potential colleagues. “That makes it all the easier to delegate to faceless bureaucrats, who on net trend left and do things like what we taught them in Rose Garden. It won’t help. It won’t save any lives. But it will curtail millions of Americans’ rights.”
Finally, he concluded that gun control is obsolete – “I think it’s dead politically. I think it’s dead technologically.” Despite the president’s efforts, Masters believes that the accelerating pace of innovation has forever eclipsed regulators who seek to rein in ghost guns. “Because as the stuff gets easier, anyone’s just going to be able to print a gun. And pretty soon it won’t take 30 minutes, and pretty soon it won’t be hard, and I regard that as a welcome development.”
Here’s the irony about the ghost gun conversation. How do we handle this if there really are 20,000 of those evil guns out there? Let’s be honest: we won’t address them any differently than we handle illegal guns used to kill thousands at random today!
Sadly, ghost guns are just another political ploy for Biden. He’s looking ahead to the midterms and is grasping for straws to find something Americans are keen to discuss. Those discussions might fuel a midterm turnaround. As it stands today, Democrats should expect a blood bath.
Does anyone feel that law enforcement across the nation will be able to grab these guns and those who use them for abhorrent criminal acts? If YOU do, you’re in the uneducated minority. What makes one think the current law enforcement bureaucracy would effectively control ghost guns? They can’t even handle the massive gun violence that occurs with REGULAR store-bought guns across the nation!
This is a sham, a political taking point, and nothing else. If Biden were serious about this, he would have done more than pontification on the subject. Gun violence is up in huge numbers nationally. And the unsolved gun violence criminal act in which NO one is held accountable is up in “hug-er” numbers!
Scrap the ghost gun false narrative, Mr. President. Want some real midterm election credibility? Stop criminals…ALL criminals.
Does anyone but me think that believing Biden will do any of this is little more than a pipe dream?