Biden expected to take executive action on gun control but what about ‘ghost guns’?

President Joe Biden plans to take action to prevent gun violence with the announcement Thursday of six White House initiatives, including the nomination of a former federal agent as the new director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The first action directs the Justice Department to issue a new rule to require background checks on so-called "ghost guns" or firearms that can be manufactured at home.

"You can buy these unfinished receivers and kits to construct a gun," said Robyn Thomas, executive director of the Giffords Law Center, which advocates for gun legislation. "Because they're only partial receivers in many cases, they don't fall under the definition of guns so they don't require a background check." 

Thomas says although California requires serial numbers on gun parts, buyers can still purchase the parts without a background check making it difficult for law enforcement officers investigating crimes.

"These are mass shootings where ghost guns were used to harm multiple people and we're seeing them show up more and more in crimes," said Thomas.

Last month, San Francisco police arrested a 31-year-old man found with an arsenal including several ghost guns without serial numbers, manufactured with a 3-D printer.

In Southern California, police say the 16-year-old who shot fellow students at a school in Santa Clarita in 2019 used a home-manufactured .45 caliber ghost gun.

California law enforcement has seen other crimes for years involving ghost guns such as the fatal Stockton bank robbery, involving an unmarked AK47 -style rifle.

Biden's other proposed actions include addressing the use of stabilizing arm braces, such as the one used in the March Boulder shooting.

The President is also asking the Justice Department to publish model "red flag" legislation for states. Red flag laws provide family members with the opportunity to prevent people in crisis from purchasing firearms.

The administration also is calling for $5 billion of eight years to provide community violence intervention programs and an annual report on firearms trafficking.

Another major action will be nominating a new director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The White House nominee is David Chipman, a former federal agent who served on the ATF's SWAT team and helped stop an illegal firearms trafficking ring in New York. Chipman also served as senior policy advisor to the Giffords Law Center.

"He is a 25-year veteran of the ATF. He is a gun owner," said Thomas, "He's just a very experienced expert in legislation, ATF policy and the guns themselves."

The National Rifle Association sent a statement saying, "the proposals Biden announced tonight could require law-abiding citizens to surrender lawful property and enable states to expand gun confiscation orders. The NRA will fight this nomination and ill-conceived executive actions."

So far, Biden's proposed actions have no indication that there will be confiscation of lawful property.

Jana Katsuyama is a reporter for KTVU.  Email Jana at and follow her on Twitter @JanaKTVU or Facebook @NewsJana or