U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court majority reinstates regulations requiring background checks for sales of 'ghost gun' kits

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Ghost gun kits provide parts to make homemade untraceable guns without serial numbers. Image from Shutterstock.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday temporarily revived Biden administration regulations that require makers and sellers of "ghost gun" kits and parts to add serial numbers to the products, keep transfer records and conduct background checks of buyers.

With the vote of five justices, the Supreme Court stayed pending appeal a federal judge’s decision to vacate the ghost gun regulations, report the New York Times, SCOTUSblog, Law.com and the Washington Post.

Slate writer Mark Joseph Stern posted the Supreme Court’s order on Twitter.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Amy Coney Barrett joined the Supreme Court’s three liberal justices in voting to reinstate the regulation. Dissenters were Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

Ghost gun kits provide parts to make homemade untraceable guns without serial numbers. At issue was a final rule adopted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that interpreted the Gun Control Act of 1968 to reach sales of ghost gun kits.

In a Supreme Court application seeking to revive the rule, U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar said police departments “have confronted an explosion of crimes involving ghost guns.” The final rule simply requires sellers of ghost gun parts to comply with uncontroversial laws imposing conditions on the commercial sale of guns, Prelogar said.

Challengers to the law said there was no showing that the gun parts were leading to an increase in crime. They also objected to the phrase “ghost guns,” labeling it a “propaganda term” that does not appear in federal law.

U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor of the Northern District of Texas had vacated the final rule after finding that the ATF had exceeded its statutory authority in adopting it. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at New Orleans narrowed Connor’s ruling to block enforcement of two key provisions of the rule.

The case is Garland v. VanDerStok.

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