Just days after the ink was dry on the ATF’s new rule banning “ghost gun” kits, a group of Republican lawmakers have launched an effort to stop the rule from going into effect.
Senator Ted Cruz (R., Texas)—along with fellow Senators Mike Lee (R., Utah), James Lankford (R., Okla.), and Mike Braun (R., Ind.)—introduced a Congressional Review Act Joint Resolution of Disapproval (CRA) on Thursday. The CRA would prohibit the Department of Justice from implementing a new rule expanding the definition of a firearm in an attempt to crack down on “ghost gun” kits. The Senators argue that the new rule unfairly targets law-abiding gun owners and that enforcement of the rule would create a de facto gun registry.
“For the past two years, we’ve seen crime rates skyrocket all across the country, aided by Democrats’ soft-on-crime policies and left-wing district attorneys operating like progressive activists instead of law enforcement officers,” Senator Cruz said. “Democrats would love nothing more than to shift the blame and stoke anti-gun sentiment, and create a permanent national gun registry in the process.”
The CRA would require passage out of both the US House and Senate to block the regulation from going into effect. It would also require the signature of the President. It is a tactic most frequently employed after a change in party control of the federal government following an election. With Republicans currently out of power in the White House and in minority status in both chambers of Congress, the CRA is unlikely to pass.
However, the CRA is part of a broader strategy for Republicans heading into the midterms this November where they’re currently projected to take back control of the House and Senate. The Senators accused the Biden administration of failing to address lenient criminal justice policies and instead choosing to target lawful gun ownership, echoing a common Republican refrain in recent months.
“Crime is going up in far-left cities because of soft-on-crime policies,” Senator Lankford said. “Biden’s response is to clamp down on guns put together in a kit. Federal law already prohibits felons from owning or possessing any gun, including so-called ‘ghost guns.’ This is another attempt by the Biden Administration to strip law-abiding citizens of their Second Amendment rights instead of addressing the failed policies that have led to increased crime across the country. This action by the Biden Administration is not going to solve rising crime rates.”
The CRA takes aim at the finalized ATF rule 2021R-05F, which Attorney General Merrick Garland signed on Monday. The rule will amend the definition of a “firearm” under federal law to include unfinished receivers or frames when sold in kits alongside jigs for homemade gun-making. The unfinished receivers and frames would remain legal to buy and sell outside of kits, and it would remain legal for anyone who is not prohibited from owning guns to make their own for personal use.
The rule also requires federally-licensed gun dealers to retain background check records for as long as they remain in business. Previous regulations only required dealers to hold on to the documents for 20 years. The senators asserted the new requirement could result in a defacto registry, which would violate federal law, because dealers must turn over their background check records to the ATF when they go out of business.
“Congress was explicit in the Firearm Owners’ Protection Act that federal gun registries are prohibited,” Senator Lee said. “Nevertheless, the Biden Administration and the ATF are determined to restrict Second Amendment rights. The Biden Administration is willing to exceed legal authority, deliberately misinterpret the law, and ignore explicit prohibitions to enact its radical anti-gun agenda.“
Cruz framed the resolution as the senator’s way of “pushing back” on the administration.
“We want to stop the Biden administration from issuing the final rule expanding the definition of firearms and instituting a national gun registry, we want to stop the false narrative that links the rise in crime to ‘ghost guns,’ and firearms, and we want to protect law-abiding citizens who are exercising their Second Amendment rights,” Cruz said.
The finalized version of the rule was not originally expected until June. However, President Joe Biden (D.) accelerated its release following a coordinated pressure campaign from several gun-control groups. On the other hand, gun-rights groups have already vowed to fight the regulation’s implementation.
UPDATE 4-14-2022 12:53 PM: This piece has been updated to include comment from Senator Mike Lee.