A federal appeals court on Tuesday rejected a bid by Republican-led states and gun rights advocates to block the Biden administration from enforcing a new regulation aimed at reining in privately made firearms called "ghost guns." The St. Louis-based 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that 16 Republican state attorneys general and gun rights organizations had not established they would be irreparably harmed if the rule remained in effect, Reuters reports. The rule, which took effect in August 2022, was issued by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. It aims to rein in the rapid proliferation of the homemade weapons that are difficult for law enforcement to trace. The rule updated the definition of a "firearm," "frame" and "receiver" under the Gun Control Act of 1968 to address the rise of ghost guns that can be assembled from kits that can be bought online or at a store without a background check.
Law enforcement agencies submitted more than 19,000 ghost guns to ATF for tracing in 2021, an increase of more than 1000% from 2017, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Those submissions were largely "futile," it says, because ghost guns lack serial numbers. Several lawsuits were filed challenging the rule, including one in North Dakota by the state attorneys general, an individual who buys materials online to make firearms, a gun seller and the advocacy group Gun Owners of America. They argued that rulemaking procedures were not properly followed and that the rule impermissibly expands the scope of the Gun Control Act and violates the U.S. Constitution's 2nd Amendment's protections for the right to bear arms. A federal judge declined to issue a preliminary injunction, and on Tuesday, a three-judge panel of the 8th Circuit comprised of judges appointed by Republican presidents affirmed that decision.