New ATF rules kick in as police try to track surge of ‘ghost guns’ in Minnesota

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New federal rules intended to track so-called “ghost guns” are taking effect as police deal with the ongoing surge of shootings across the Twin Cities.

Starting Wednesday, anyone who buys a kit to build a gun at home — privately manufactured firearms — must pass a background check.

The new rules also require those homemade kits to include serial numbers just like any other commercially sold firearm.

The new rules will not stop people from building their own firearms at home instead of buying it from registered gun stores or dealers.

“If you want to make one on a 3D printer, you’re still allowed as long as you’re not federally prohibited,” said William McCrary, Special Agent in Charge of the St. Paul Field Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

McCrary said the new rules are intended to help better track what police refer to as “ghost guns” that have been popping up at crime scenes across the Twin Cities.

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“We have recovered double what we recovered last year and that was about double from the year before,” McCrary said. “If they were not turning up at crime scenes, it wouldn’t be that big of a deal, but they are.”

The ATF rules took effect as scheduled after a federal judge denied a legal challenge from a gun owner in North Dakota and more than a dozen Republican Attorneys General who claimed the agency had “exceeded its authority.”

They argued, in part, that the ATF “improperly conjured up” the term “privately made firearm” to limit gun owners constitutional rights.

In a ruling filed Tuesday, Judge Peter Welte found the ATF can define firearms as necessary and that the agency acted in the interest of law enforcement and public safety.

Rob Doar, the vice president of the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus, previously told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS that the new rules would not be a tremendous burden for legal gun owners.

But he downplayed the impact the added regulations will have on crime.

“If we are looking at this as some sort of a solution to a public safety crisis we are experiencing, we’re going to be setting ourselves up for tremendous disappointment,” Doar said earlier this month.

Rashmi Seneviratne, the Executive Director of Protect Minnesota, a nonprofit that advocates for gun reform in the state, said that while the rules are limited in scope, they are still a step in the right direction.

“One thing isn’t going to fix the whole thing, but we can do a bunch of small things that will reduce gun violence,” she said.