“My beef is not with Marvin, who does a decent, non-ideological job,” Mr Keane said.
Ms Iverson, the Justice Department spokeswoman, said Mr Richardson was simply reading a document from the White House Budget Office when he cited the June deadline for the phantom gun rule, which had been delayed by the need to sift through more than a quarter of a million public comments. Mr. Richardson dedicated 30 ATF staff to deal with what was the largest-ever response to a gun proposal, Ms. Iverson said.
But two White House officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, said Mr Richardson misspoke and the rule would be actually finished in early April. They said another claim by Mr Richardson, that enforcement of the rule would begin 90 days after the rule was completed, was also wrong and that the gap would be closer to 60 days.
The ghost weapon rule is changing faster than most federal regulations. But anti-violence groups and local officials in California, where ghost guns now account for 25-50% of guns recovered from crime scenes, say a delay of just a few weeks will give manufacturers more time to pump guns. non-traceable components that can be used in crimes.
“It’s a ticking time bomb,” said T. Christian Heyne, vice president of policy at Brady, who lobbied the ATF to speed up regulation.
“Ghost Weapon Parts are being sold every day until this rule is finalized, so time is critical,” he added. “Six months from now, the problem will undoubtedly be worse than it is now.”
Mr. Biden made the same point in a speech last month to law enforcement officials in New York, telling them the rule would be completed in the spring. Ghost guns are “as lethal as any other weapon”, he said.
White House officials say the president is doing everything he can to resolve the crisis, given Senate Republicans’ refusal to consider military-style gun restrictions, red flag laws to prevent people with mental illness from carrying guns and to improve background checks.