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Everytown Responds After Federal Court Rejects Gun Lobby Challenge to Ghost Guns Rule

August 23, 2022

NEW YORK –– Everytown for Gun Safety released the following statements after the United States District Court for the District of North Dakota rejected a lawsuit brought in part by Gun Owners of America and backed by 17 Republican Attorneys General, which sought to prevent the Biden-Harris Administration from implementing a rule that will require ghost guns to be treated like the deadly weapons they are. The final rule, which will go into effect on Wednesday and was issued by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), clarifies the definitions of “firearm” and “frame or receiver” to confirm coverage of kits and components easily assembled into untraceable ghost guns.

“It’s telling that the gun lobby, which talks a big game about standing with law enforcement, mounted a doomed defense of untraceable ghost guns, which are increasingly the weapon of choice for criminals and extremists,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety. “The gun lobby’s failure will make our country safer.”

“Federal law broadly regulates not just finished guns but also gun building kits and the key components of firearms that can readily be converted into working weapons,” said Eric Tirschwell, executive director of Everytown Law. “The gun lobby’s profit-driven argument that the ATF exceeded its authority or violated the Second Amendment was simply wrong – and we’re glad the court recognized this.”

“Ghost gun manufacturers just lost their fight to allow criminals access to the untraceable firearms turning up in record numbers at crime scenes, which endangers our communities and law enforcement officers,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action. “Our army of grassroots volunteers has fought for years to address the deadly rise of ghost guns in our communities. Finalizing and implementing this critical regulation will help save lives.”

Earlier this year, President Joe Biden announced the finalization of the new ghost guns rule at a White House Rose Garden ceremony where he was introduced by Mia Tretta, a volunteer leader with Students Demand Action and a gun violence survivor who was shot and wounded with a ghost gun in a school shooting in 2019. At the ceremony, President Biden also announced that he would nominate former U.S. Attorney Steve Dettelbach to become the next ATF director, who was subsequently confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

The ATF estimates that approximately 45,000 ghost guns have been recovered at crime scenes since 2016, with more than 19,000 ghost guns being recovered in 2021 alone. Local law enforcement agencies are also seeing staggering increases in rates of recovery — rising as much as 100 percent in the last three years in places like San Diego and Los Angeles. Other communities have seen significant ghost gun recoveries, with sharp increases in the past year. According to the LAPD, the department recovered 1,921 ghost guns in 2021, more than double the 813 ghost guns recovered in 2020. In Philadelphia, the police reported recovering 571 ghost guns, compared to 95 in 2019 and 250 in 2020. Ghost guns have also been weapons of choice for militant right-wing extremists and people who otherwise would not be able to pass a background check. The country has also seen an increase of gunfire on school grounds with ghost guns and recoveries of ghost guns on campuses. Schools in Arizona, New Mexico, Maryland, and Kansas have been devastated with these instances of gunfire on school grounds – highlighting a scary trend and another important reason to regulate these guns. 

Everytown has been on the forefront of the fight against ghost guns. In December of 2019, Everytown filed a petition for rulemaking, urging the ATF to address the rising threat posed by ghost guns. In August 2020, after the ATF failed to undertake the rulemaking requested by the petition, Everytown, joined by the cities of Syracuse, San Jose, Chicago, and Columbia, sued the ATF to compel the agency to correct its misinterpretation of federal law that had allowed the ghost gun threat to emerge. 

​​For years, Everytown has worked in the legal, regulatory, and grassroots arenas to push for action on ghost guns, including taking the following steps: 

  • December 2019: Everytown files a petition for rulemaking, urging the ATF to address the growing menace of ghost guns.
  • May 2020: Everytown releases groundbreaking original research on ghost guns, including an analysis of more than 100 federal prosecutions involving ghost guns that showed ghost guns are connected to violent criminal enterprises, gun trafficking rings, and far-right extremists.
  • August 2020: In the first lawsuit over the regulatory failure on ghost guns, Everytown and four cities (Columbia, Syracuse, Chicago, and San Jose) sue the ATF over its failure to act on the threat posed by ghost guns and to correct its misinterpretation of federal law. Everytown Law represents the cities in the ongoing suit, which has been on hold pending the ATF’s final rule and seeks a court order overturning prior erroneous determinations and compelling the ATF to take action. 
  • December 2020: As part of a roadmap outlining ways the Biden-Harris Administration can protect the public from gun violence, Everytown urges the Administration to act on the threat of ghost guns.
  • December 2020: Everytown sues a website selling ghost guns kits and parts on behalf of Mia Tretta, who was wounded with a ghost gun in the 2019 shooting at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, California.
  • February 2021: With Everytown serving as co-counsel, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer sues Polymer80 on behalf of the people of California, noting that over 700 of the ghost guns LAPD recovered in 2020 were made from Polymer80 parts.
  • May 2021: Nick Suplina, Everytown’s senior vice president for law and policy, testifies before a U.S. Senate subcommittee on the threat posed by ghost guns.
  • August 2021: Everytown files a comment letter in support of the proposed rulemaking. Everytown and Moms Demand Action drive nearly 100,000 comments in support of the ATF’s proposed ghost guns rule.
  • August 2021: Everytown sues Polymer80 on behalf of two L.A. county sheriff’s deputies wounded in a 2020 ghost gun shooting.
  • April 2022: Everytown ran digital ads on the home pages of The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal calling on the ATF to finalize the proposed ghost gun rule.

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