The proliferation of ghost guns, firearms without serial numbers, has become a pressing issue in the United States. These untraceable weapons have been showing up at crime scenes across the nation with alarming frequency. To address this growing concern, the Supreme Court has taken action to reinstate a regulation aimed at curbing the spread of ghost guns.
In a 5-4 decision, the court voted to put on hold a federal judge's ruling in Texas that invalidated the Biden administration's regulation of ghost gun kits. This reinstated regulation will remain in effect while the administration appeals the ruling to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, and potentially even to the Supreme Court itself.
Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Amy Coney Barrett, along with the court's three liberal members, formed the majority in this decision. Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Clarence Thomas would have preferred to keep the regulation on hold during the appeals process, although no explanation was provided by either side.
Highlighting the urgency of the situation, the Justice Department revealed that more than 19,000 ghost guns were seized by local law enforcement agencies at crime scenes in 2021 alone. This staggering number represents a tenfold increase in just five years.
Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar, the administration's top Supreme Court lawyer, stressed the importance of public safety in combating the flow of ghost guns into the hands of dangerous individuals. In a court filing, she wrote: "The public-safety interests in reversing the flow of ghost guns to dangerous and otherwise prohibited persons easily outweighs the minor costs that respondents will incur."
As the battle over ghost gun regulation continues, it is clear that preventing these untraceable firearms from falling into the wrong hands is a crucial step towards promoting public safety in our society.
New Rule Expands Definition of Firearms
Last year, a new rule was issued that has significantly changed the definition of a firearm under federal law. The rule now includes unfinished parts such as handgun frames or long gun receivers, allowing for easier tracking. These parts now require licensing and must have serial numbers. Additionally, manufacturers must conduct background checks before selling these parts, just like with other commercially made firearms. This requirement applies regardless of how the firearm was assembled, meaning it covers ghost guns made from individual parts, kits, or even by using 3D printers.
It's important to note that this rule does not prohibit individuals from purchasing firearm kits or any type of firearm.
Lawyers representing individuals, businesses, and advocacy groups who challenged the rule supported Judge O'Connor's decision. They argued that the ATF had deviated from more than 50 years of regulatory practice by expanding the definition of a firearm.
The Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a longstanding advocate for ghost gun regulation, commended the Supreme Court's intervention. According to David Pucino, the group's deputy chief counsel, the contested rule simply ensures that ghost gun kits are regulated as the firearms they are. In their view, this will ultimately save lives.
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