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Supreme Court allows ATF to apply ‘ghost gun’ rules for now

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Washington— The Supreme Court on Tuesday stayed a lower court ruling that struck down the Biden administration’s efforts to regulate so-called ghost gunsallowing restrictions to apply while legal proceedings continue.

The court’s 5-4 order came hours before a temporary recess issued by Judge Samuel Alito, who handles emergency aid requests from states including Texas, was due. ready to expire. Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh said they would deny the Biden administration’s request to reinstate the rules.

The legal battle came to the Supreme Court late last month when the Biden administration asked the High Court to reinstate Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives regulations targeting weapons ghosts while the proceedings continue in the lower court.

THE ATF measurement, which came into force in August 2022, updated the rules regarding the definition of a “firearm” under the Gun Control Act to combat the proliferation of phantom guns, which are untraceable firearms that can be made from kits available online and assembled at home. The rule defined “firearms” to include ghost gun kits and clarified the definition of “frames or receivers”, which are also sold as kits.

The Ghost Guns Legal Battle

Confiscated
Confiscated ‘ghost weapons’ are displayed before a press conference with New York City Mayor Eric Adams and Attorney General Letitia James on June 29, 2022 in New York City.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images


By law, manufacturers and sellers of certain kits are required to obtain licenses, mark their products with serial numbers, conduct background checks and maintain records to enable law enforcement. order to trace firearms when used in crimes. The rule does not prohibit the purchase, sale or possession of a firearm, nor does it prohibit a person legally entitled to own a firearm from making one at home.

A group of gun owners, advocacy groups and entities that make or sell products covered by the rule challenged parts of the ATF restrictions last year, arguing they are illegal.

A federal district court initially blocked the disputed provisions, barring the Biden administration from enforcing them. Then, on July 5, U.S. District Court Judge Reed O’Connor ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and blocked the nationwide settlement, finding that the ATF had acted beyond its legal authority. The Biden administration asked the United States Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit to overturn the lower court’s decision, and the appeals court declined to do so regarding two disputed parts of the ATF restrictions .

The 5th Circuit has expedited the Biden administration’s appeal and is expected to hear arguments in September.

In addition to asking the Supreme Court to stay the district court’s order, the Biden administration argued that under a stay, challengers would be free to make, sell, and buy coin kits. weapons, and would only have to comply with federal requirements that apply to commercial sales of other firearms.

“The Universal District Court vacatur irreparably harms the public and government by reopening the floodgates to the tide of untraceable phantom weapons pouring into communities across our nation,” Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar wrote in the petition. emergency in court. “Once these weapons are sold, the damage is done: some will already be in the hands of criminals and other banned people – and when they are inevitably used in crimes, they are untraceable.”

But plaintiffs challenging the ATF rule argued that by redefining “frame or receiver” and “firearm” under federal law, the agency exceeded its authority under the Control Act. firearms.

“In seeking to bring into its jurisdiction articles that facilitate the manufacture of firearms by individuals for their own use, the ATF has sought to fundamentally alter the policy choices made by Congress in 1968,” said a group of gun owners and retailers told the court. “These policy choices are for Congress to make, not the ATF.”

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