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"Ghost guns" that were secured by the DC Metropolitan Police Department are on display during a press conference. Photo: Astrid Riecken for The Washington Post via Getty Images

The Department of Justice released a proposed rule Friday that would broaden the definition of "firearm" and require some gun-making kits to include serial numbers.

The big picture: President Biden last month unveiled a series of executive actions on guns, including directing the DOJ to propose a rule to crack down on the proliferation of "ghost guns," which are untraceable firearms assembled from kits.

  • The Justice Department estimates that from 2016 to 2020, law enforcement recovered more than 23,000 weapons without serial numbers from potential crime scenes, including those in connection to 325 homicides or attempted homicides.

Details: The proposed rule would close a regulatory loophole that currently allows gun purchasers to avoid federal background checks by buying unassembled firearms online.

  • Under the proposed rule, retailers would be required to run background checks before selling kits that contain the parts necessary for someone to readily make a gun at home.
  • The rule would require manufacturers to include a serial number on the firearm “frame or receiver” in easy-to-build firearm kits.
  • The rule would also establish requirements for federally licensed firearms dealers to have a serial number added to 3D-printed guns or other firearms without serial numbers that they take into inventory.

What they're saying: "We are committed to taking commonsense steps to address the epidemic of gun violence that takes the lives of too many people in our communities,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a news release.

  • “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," he added.

What's next: The proposal has to undergo multiple stages of consultation from the public before it is finalized.

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From Malcolm X to "Free Britney," new media shapes the justice system

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

True crime documentaries, podcasts and social media campaigns are bringing new attention to real-world legal proceedings — and are often affecting the outcome.

Why it matters: New media platforms can instantly put a national spotlight on cases that have long been forgotten or buried under red tape.

Updated 7 hours ago - Health

The next big bottleneck in the global vaccination effort

Illustration: Rae Cook/Axios

The world still needs more coronavirus vaccines, but an additional bottleneck has emerged in many low-income countries: They need help getting shots in arms.

Why it matters: Increasing vaccination rates across the world is both a humanitarian necessity and the best way to prevent dangerous new variants from emerging, but it increasingly requires complex problem-solving.

Updated 8 hours ago - Health

COVID-19 Omicron variant cases identified in Europe, U.K.

People wearing masks walk in London on Nov. 25. Photo: Li Ying/Xinhua via Getty Images

Health officials in the United Kingdom, Italy and Germany announced on Saturday that they've detected the first known cases of the new COVID-19 Omicron variant.

Why it matters: The discoveries come as the world scrambles to respond to concerns over the new variant, discovered in South Africa earlier this week.