SCOTUS revives Federal rules governing “ghost guns”

Regulations requiring serial numbers for parts of home made guns are back-in-effect, courtesy of the nation’s highest court.

The U.S. Supreme Court revived a Federal rule regulating home made, unregistered firearms known as “ghost guns” in a surprising and narrow decision on Tuesday.

The Biden administration had requested for the regulations to remain in effect while legal challenges against them play out.


The backstory: The 2022 Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ updated regulations define ghost gun kit components as firearms under the law, allowing the government to better track them. The rule requires compliance with federal laws that impose conditions on commercial sales of firearms, including requirements for serial numbers and records to trace firearms used in crimes.

Driving the decision: Chief Justice John Roberts and conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett joined with the court’s three liberals to allow the rule to take effect, voting 5-4.

A judge in Texas had previously blocked the regulations, ruling that the agency had exceeded its authority in promulgating the rule.

However, the Supreme Court’s ruling temporarily suspends that order.

The challenge against the ATF regulations was brought by two Texas residents, a handful of retailers of ghost gun kits, and a gun rights group. They argued that the ATF had exceeded its authority in extending the definition of firearms to include ghost gun components and that Congress’ definition of a firearm does not cover parts or aggregations of weapon parts that do not readily fire a projectile.

What they’re saying: Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar warned the Supreme Court that over the last several years “police departments around the Nation have confronted an explosion of crimes involving ghost guns.”

  • “Congress recognized that limiting the federal firearms laws to functional firearms would invite evasion, and it thus broadly defined ‘firearm’ to include any weapon ‘that will or is designed to or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive,'” wrote Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar.
  • “The Gun Control Act of 1968 reflects a fundamental policy choice by Congress to regulate the commercial market for firearms while leaving the law-abiding citizens of this Country free to exercise their right to make firearms for their own use without overbearing federal regulation,” argued the attorney for the challengers, David Thompson.
Related Posts