Joe Biden announces phantom gun regulations as Philly sellers face charges

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Law enforcement announced on Monday the arrest of a Philadelphia man accused of using a 3D printer to illegally manufacture, assemble and sell ghost weapons in the city.

Daniel Whiteman, 36, was charged earlier this month with three counts of possession of a firearm and related charges after prosecutors said he purchased weapons kits ghosts online, then used a 3D printer to produce some parts of the weapon to build and sell.

“It’s made the game better in Philadelphia now,” said Bill Fritze, supervisor of the district attorney’s office gun violence task force. “This is, I think, the first case type we’ve seen with a 3D printer assembling these guns.”

The charges were reported the same day President Joe Biden announced new federal regulations on phantom guns, largely unregulated and untraceable firearms that Philadelphia officials say are too easily acquired by criminals and have contributed to the growing crisis of gun violence in the city. Last week, police say, a teenager used a ghost gun to shoot four people, including a SEPTA cop in Frankford.

Biden said ghost weapons would now be classified as firearms, requiring sellers to be federally licensed, buyers to undergo background checks and weapons to have serial numbers. Last year, he said, law enforcement officials reported about 20,000 suspected ghost weapons to the ATF, ten times more than in 2016.

“You commit a felony with a phantom gun, expect federal prosecution,” Biden said.

Firearms are usually made by licensed companies and must have serial numbers, which authorities use to trace the weapon back to the manufacturer, gun dealer, and buyer.

READ MORE: What are ‘ghost guns’ and are they legal in Pennsylvania?

Ghost guns, however, which are often sold in build-it-yourself kits, are usually made with what is known as an 80% frame or receiver, which acts as a base that contains all of the parts. a functional gun, like the trigger. . Previously, federal law did not consider unfinished frames and receivers firearms, so background checks and serial numbers were not required to buy or sell them.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro joined Biden at the White House on Monday and said Philadelphia police have seen a nearly 500% increase in the number of ghost guns recovered over the past two years. Shapiro, a Democratic gubernatorial candidate, has spoken out against phantom guns throughout his tenure.

In the case of Whiteman, who was charged with robbery in 2012 and banned from owning a firearm, prosecutors said he ordered the gun parts online and then used the 3D printer to make brightly colored receivers.

Fritze said investigators believe Whiteman’s business only operated for about a month or two, but during that time he built six guns, including .9mm and .9mm caliber guns. 22 Glock style. Prosecutors believe some were sold in the Kensington area, a part of the city plagued by violent crime largely fueled by an outdoor drug market.

“The danger, the potential bloodshed, cannot be overstated when you sell these guns to this location,” District Attorney Larry Krasner said of Kensington.

When police executed a search warrant at Whiteman’s home, two more receivers were being printed, Fritze said. Whiteman is being held at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility on $750,000 bond.

In 2013, Philadelphia became the first US city to ban 3D printing of firearms, except by persons with a license to manufacture firearms. In January 2021, the law was amended to regulate unfinished frames or receivers and the specialized tools used to turn them into functional weapons.

Gun safety advocates welcomed the changes announced by Biden on Monday.

“Ghost guns destroy lives like a regular firearm. But for too long, a legal loophole has allowed abusers, criminals and violent Pennsylvanians to buy one without any of the safeguards we rely on,” said Adam Garber, executive director of the CeaseFirePA Education Fund, a prevention group. gun violence in Pennsylvania. “They took the lives of Pennsylvanians at an ever-increasing rate when law enforcement had few options to do anything but retrieve the next ghost gun from the next crime scene.”

“Today we are safer because President Biden enshrines an obvious fact in law: ghost guns are firearms. The fewer criminals will have access to these deadly weapons, the more lives will be saved,” Garber said in a statement.

The National Rifle Association and the National Shooting Sports Foundation have pointed out that making a firearm at home has always been legal. The problem, they say, is not the guns but rather the people who use them to commit crimes. Gun Owners of America swore he would fight the rule.

On Fox News Monday morning, NRA Director General of Public Affairs Andrew Arulanandam called Biden’s rule “hollow.”

“This action sends the wrong message to violent criminals, as this ‘ban’ will not affect them. These series of violent crimes will continue unabated until they are stopped, prosecuted and punished,” Arulanandam said.

Biden also announced on Monday that he would appoint former U.S. Attorney Steve Dettelbach to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which plays a key role in regulating firearms and hasn’t had a Senate-confirmed manager since 2015. Biden withdrew his nominee last year after facing opposition from Republicans and some Democrats.

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