AG James joins coalition urging Supreme Court to uphold ghost gun regulations

July 8, 2024 Robert Abruzzese, Courthouse Editor
Attorney General Letitia James emphasized the urgent need to uphold federal regulations on ghost guns to combat rising gun violence in an amicus brief in Garland v. VanDerStok, urging the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse an appeals court decision that overturned this gun safety rule. Eagle file photo by Bebeto Matthews
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Attorney General Letitia James has joined a coalition of 24 attorneys general in urging the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold a federal rule regulating ghost guns — untraceable weapons often made at home from kits. 

The coalition filed an amicus brief in Garland v. VanDerStok, urging the court to reverse an appeals court decision that overturned this gun safety rule. The brief argues that the rule clarifies existing law, is essential to preventing gun violence, and aids law enforcement in solving serious crimes.

“Gun safety laws save lives, and weakening these measures puts Americans in danger,” said Attorney General James. “Ghost guns are on the rise across the country, and stripping away federal rules that help regulate these deadly weapons will cause the problem to get worse. I am proud to stand with my fellow attorneys general as we call for this commonsense gun safety measure to stay in place and for more to be done to protect our communities from senseless gun violence.”

States are seeing an increase in untraceable, unserialized ghost guns recovered by law enforcement. To combat this growing problem, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) issued a Final Rule in 2022, clarifying the definition of “firearms” in the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA) to include kits and parts easily converted to fully functional firearms. 

The rule does not ban gun kits but subjects them to the same regulations as conventionally manufactured guns, including serial number and background check requirements. However, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the rule, deeming it an impermissible expansion of the GCA, though the Supreme Court allowed the rule to remain in effect during the appeal process.

Attorney General James and the coalition argue that overturning this regulation would harm public safety and hinder law enforcement efforts. They assert that the rule aligns with the text, history, and purpose of the GCA and that the Fifth Circuit’s decision was flawed. The coalition stresses that the rule is necessary to close a loophole that previously allowed individuals banned from owning guns to circumvent the law.

Joining Attorney General James in filing the amicus brief are the attorneys general of Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawai’i, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, the District of Columbia and the Northern Mariana Islands.

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