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VICTORY FOR GUN SAFETY IN THE COURTS: U.S. Supreme Court Allows Biden Administration Ghost Guns Rule to Stay in Effect, Everytown for Gun Safety Responds

August 8, 2023

NEW YORK – Everytown for Gun Safety and its grassroots network, Moms Demand Action released the following statements in response to the Supreme Court’s order allowing the Biden Administration’s ghost guns Rule to remain in effect for now. The Supreme Court’s order freezes a decision of the Northern District of Texas that had temporarily invalidated the rule.

Today’s order grants the Biden Administration’s request that the Supreme Court stay the lower court’s decision to invalidate the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (ATF) ghost guns rule. Everytown for Gun Safety, joined by Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and March For Our Lives, submitted an amicus brief in support of the Administration’s request.

The rule, which was finalized in April last year and took effect last August, confirms that ghost guns are to be treated like the deadly firearms they are. ATF’s rule updated and clarified key regulatory definitions, including “firearm,” “frame,” and “receiver” to ensure that kits and components that are easily assembled into untraceable ghost guns are subject to the same regulations as firearms.  At the end of June, a single federal judge in the Northern District of Texas issued a nationwide order blocking the rule. Weeks later, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, without any meaningful explanation, declined to put the lower court’s order on hold. In September, the Fifth Circuit will hold full arguments on the matter.     

“Americans across the country will be safer thanks to the Supreme Court’s decision today to keep ATF’s life-saving ghost guns rule in effect while the appeals process plays out,” said John Feinblatt, President of Everytown for Gun Safety. “When a weapon looks like a gun, shoots like a gun, and kills like a gun, there’s no doubt it should be regulated like a gun. Now, all eyes are on the lower courts to side with public safety and keep this rule on the books.”

“Ghost guns are a clear and growing threat to our communities. Across the country, moms, students and survivors of gun violence have been fighting to regulate ghost guns for what they are — guns,” said Angela Ferrell-Zabala, Executive Director of Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action. “Today’s news from the Supreme Court gives us all a sigh of relief, but our grassroots movement won’t take our foot off the gas until we’re assured once and for all that these deadly and untraceable weapons will be responsibly regulated.”

The Washington Post recently reported on how American teenagers can, with ease, acquire the parts for ghost guns, often leading to deadly outcomes. Everytown Law recently filed a suit in Virginia on behalf of the estates of two 17-year-old Virginians who were shot and killed by an 18-year-old classmate using an unserialized, self-assembled ghost gun purchased from ghost gun seller 80P Builder. 

ATF estimates that nearly 45,240 ghost guns have been recovered by law enforcement between 2016 and 2021, and local law enforcement agencies are 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. In 2022, ATF recovered 25,785 ghost guns in domestic seizures, as well as 2,453 through international operations. So far in 2023, the Department has recovered more than 10,000 privately made firearms (PMF’s) domestically and 1,000 internationally. 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. In recent months, the country has also seen an increase of gun fire 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 gun fire on school grounds – highlighting a scary trend and another important reason to regulate these guns. 

Everytown has compiled examples of ghost gun shootings from across the country since 2013, available here. Everytown’s report on ghost guns, featuring testimonials from law enforcement officers, can be found here.

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