On April 11, the White House released a statement announcing a Justice Department rule “cracking down on ghost guns.”

Every responsibly armed American wants to see less crime on the streets of this great nation. However, the rule put in place will have limited impact on reducing crime. But that’s not the point of this column. Nor do I really believe the point of the rule is an effort to reduce crime. I feel the real effort is to keep pushing the idea that “guns are bad” by putting emphasis on the words, not the products.

What Is a ‘Ghost Gun’

Those opposed to gun rights have coined the term “ghost gun” in an effort to conjure up images of evil spirits that torment good people and then slip back into the shadows. That is not what’s happening. Nor will the Justice Department’s rule prevent bad things from happening to good people. The Justice Department is changing its rule on firearms kits. Specifically, the department is changing the rule on firearms kits manufactured by businesses and sold to consumers who then build the kits to create finished firearms. For years, the standard had been 80/20, meaning the kit could be 80 percent complete. Then, the consumer would have to finish 20 percent of the work — including some pretty important machining — in order to complete a home-built firearm.

We could go off on a tangent here about what the new ratio will eventually be. Will it be 50/50? Will it be 25/75? I say, for the record, that ratio will continue to change. First though, anti-gun politicians must vilify home-built firearms kits. And they can best do that by calling them ghost guns.

Correct Firearms Terminology

We’ve seen it before when anti-gunners wanted everyone to use “cop-killer bullets” and “assault weapons.” Both are made-up terms with no basis in reality. Does anyone remember the early 1980s when every gun-control group in America demanded Teflon-coated bullets be made illegal because they could allegedly penetrate police body armor? Most people still believe it. But the inventor of Teflon-coated bullets pointed out repeatedly that the coating of Teflon actually cut down the bullet’s ability to penetrate both nylon and Kevlar body armor. No one reported that part of the story, and “cop-killer bullets” stuck.

And, of course, no discussion of the firearms lexicon would be complete without a review of the term “assault weapon.” This term, developed by gun-control groups, changes the definition of a firearm merely by the cosmetic features added to the gun. Put a pistol grip and a barrel shroud on a Ruger 10/22, and you have made it an “assault weapon” (but only in some jurisdictions). Apparently, an “assault weapon” is anything any anti-gun zealot says it is.

So that brings us back to the term “ghost gun,” which first gained prominence back in about 2014. California Sen. Kevin De Leon stood in front of a group of reporters and declared the AR-15 he was holding to be a “ghost gun” and said it had the ability to “disperse with 30 bullets within half a second.”  While De Leon was roundly and rightly mocked by the gun owners of this country, some people actually believed him. And you know the drill: If you keep repeating a lie long enough … it becomes the truth.

Change the Narrative

This most recent announcement from the White House includes the claim that firearms kits have become the weapon of choice for violent criminals. In paragraph four of the announcement, you see the claim that 20,000 such guns have been recovered by law enforcement agencies, and this represents a tenfold increase since 2016. The senders of the press release even included a link intended to take readers to the data compiled by the ATF in support of this claim. That link is broken and leads to a blank web page. This could be an honest mistake. But I would prefer to see that data before believing criminals suddenly decided to buy tools and build guns themselves.

So, I ask the gun owners who are reading this to stop using the term “ghost gun.” Instead, call them what they really are: firearms kits. And understand that these kits, once they are renamed as evil and sinister “ghost guns” by those who oppose the private ownership of guns in this country, will soon be heavily regulated. And, because of the repeated use of terms that vilify guns, the long, slow erosion of gun rights can be expected to continue. We must continue our fight to preserve those rights — starting with the language we use.

UPDATE (March 7, 2023)

On March 3, Judge Reed O’Connor of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas issued a preliminary injunction in VanDerStok v. Garland, hindering the ATF from enforcing its unfinished-gun-parts ban against Defense Distributed. The company is now not only exempt from the August 2022 ATF rule, but the preliminary injunction is also a blow to the legality of President Biden’s ban on “ghost guns.”

How are you changing the narrative around firearms? Let us know in the comments below!