On Monday, President Biden announced a new regulation that the Justice Department hopes will reduce the number of unmarked firearms. It targets kits in which incomplete metal frames and receivers (the part of a weapon that holds the firing mechanism) are sold online, requiring only a few drill holes to become complete weapons. Now, those incomplete devices will be classified as firearms and be regulated.
Or, as Fox News’s Tucker Carlson would have you believe: Now the Biden administration is going to disarm its political opponents.
It is certainly true that the barrier between incomplete and complete firearms can be hazy. One might assume that kits facilitating the creation of untraceable firearms will evolve to get around the new definitions applying to “frames” and “receivers.” Given the availability of 3D printers and instructions for creating simple pistols, the boundary blurs further. Law enforcement is in an evolving war with those hoping to produce untraceable weapons.
While hobbyists do buy DIY kits to make their own weapons, these weapons are being found at crime scenes. Last week, New York police recovered an untraceable firearm as part of an investigation that killed a student outside a high school in the Bronx.
At this point, the number of untraceable weapons recovered at crime scenes is still small. In 2020, hundreds of thousands of firearms were recovered at crime scenes nationwide. The number of suspected privately made firearms was far smaller.
But, as the Justice Department notes, that small number has been growing quickly. In 2016, fewer than 2,000 such firearms were recovered, a number equal to about a half-percent of the total number of recovered firearms. In 2020, more than 10,000 such weapons were recovered, about one in every 40 firearms recovered nationally. In 2021, the number of privately made firearms that were recovered nearly doubled.
Enter Carlson, who immediately framed this in a way that suggested Biden was trying to punish Republicans.
“The same administration that is letting gun felons walk has decided that Trump voters who have guns that they work on because they have physical skills must be suppressed and disarmed. This is purely political,” Carlson said on his show Monday night. “If you wanted to lower the murder rate, you wouldn’t even bother to make up the phrase ‘ghost gun.’ You just bust people who use guns in the commission of crimes. That’s the last thing you’re going to do because those are Democratic voters.”
To some extent, this riff is a mark of how indifferent Carlson has grown to building out a sensible argument. It’s just pure appeals to his perceived, pro-Donald-Trump audience: They are making these weapons themselves because they are fine craftsmen. They aren’t criminals; criminals are definitionally Democrats. He didn’t wink when he said this, but he didn’t need to.
What’s interesting is that “just bust people who use guns in the commission of crimes” line. It’s Carlson suggesting both that police aren’t doing their jobs but also being lazy or … something. It’s also boggling as a claim. How are you going to “bust people” if you recover the untraceable weapon they used to commit that crime? What magic power does Carlson think police have here? It’s like him coming to a murder scene, wiping away any fingerprints and telling the police that they should stop worrying about the lack of fingerprints and just catch the bad guys. (As he wiped away the fingerprints, imagine that he explained that only Trump voters left fingerprints, because of their having real jobs that got their hands dirty, like hosting TV shows farming and servicing cars.)
Carlson being Carlson, he then turned up the temperature.
“Just to be clear, there’s no such thing as a ‘ghost gun,’ ” he said, inexplicably. “That’s a made-up phrase, and anyone you see on television or in print repeating that phrase is a propagandist working on behalf of the forces of repression. … This is an effort to disarm people who don’t vote for the Democrats, period.”
This is indefensible fearmongering — but it’s Tucker Carlson, so you didn’t need me to point that out. For him, the entire story of the Biden administration has been that the Democratic president wants to disempower and punish his political opponents. It began in the hours after Biden gave his inaugural address and has carried over ever since. Now, a straightforward effort not to restrict gun ownership but to prevent criminals from escaping justice is framed as an effort to leave Trump supporters unarmed.
The old conservative line used to be that strict gun laws would simply mean that only criminals had guns. Now, it seems, the line is that efforts to track criminals through the guns they used is actually about leaving God-fearing Republicans susceptible to crime or government oppression.
It may not make sense, but it keeps people watching TV.
Another mass shooting, this time on the subway in NYC.