The US Justice Department has moved to tighten firearms regulations in an effort to clamp down on the rapid proliferation of untraceable home-made guns.
The proposed rule, released on Friday, comes several weeks after President Joe Biden promised a crackdown on the so-called ghost guns, which don not have serial numbers used by law enforcement to trace them, and are often bought without a background check.
For years, federal and local law enforcement officials have warned that a loophole in the nation's firearms law allows people, who would otherwise be prohibited from owning firearms, to obtain guns by assembling core parts and kits purchased online.
Gun shows have also been selling firearm kits and gun parts without requiring background checks.
“Criminals and others barred from owning a gun should not be able to exploit a loophole to evade background checks and to escape detection by law enforcement,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.
“This proposed rule would help keep guns out of the wrong hands and make it easier for law enforcement to trace guns used to commit violent crimes, while protecting the rights of law-abiding Americans.”
Ghost guns have increasingly been turning up at crime scenes across the United States.
The Justice Department said it had seized more than 23,000 ghost guns from 2016 to 2020, adding that they had been linked to at least 325 murders and attempted murders in that period.
The Biden administration introduced a raft of measures in April to address America's “epidemic” of gun violence, including plans to clamp down on ghost guns.
The measures were unveiled in the wake of two mass shootings in Colorado and Georgia that killed a total of 18 people and renewed calls for gun safety reform.
Under the new proposed rule, retailers would be required to run background checks before selling kits that would make it possible for people to readily assemble firearms at home.
The rule would also require manufacturers to put a serial number on gun frames and unfinished receivers that could be convertible into a firearm.
“Although this rulemaking will solve only one aspect of the problem, we have an obligation to do our part to keep our families and our neighborhoods safe from gun violence,” Garland said.
More than 43,000 people were killed by guns in the United States last year, including suicides, according to the Gun Violence Archive.