A 5-4 Supreme Court ruling allowed federal regulation of "ghost guns" to stand while the Biden administration appeals lower-court orders finding that do-it-yourself firearm kits weren’t covered by the principal federal weapons law, the Gun Control Act. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives issued a rule in 2022 applying the Gun Control Act to gun kits amid a proliferation being sold over the internet. After lower courts said the rule exceeded the government’s regulatory authority, the Justice Department asked the Supreme Court to let the regulations stand while the litigation continues, reports the Wall Street Journal. Tuesday’s order, typical in emergency matters, was unsigned and provided no reasons.
The rule “is about public safety—helping law enforcement solve crimes and reducing the number of untraceable ghost guns flooding our communities,” a Justice Department spokesman said. A lawyer for the Firearms Policy Coalition, a gun group that challenged the regulations, said it was “deeply disappointed that the court pressed pause on our defeat of ATF’s rule.” The lawyer, Cody Wisniewski, said he remained “confident that we will yet again defeat ATF and its unlawful rule at the Fifth Circuit when that court has the opportunity to review the full merits of our case.” In its Supreme Court filing, the Justice Department said that criminals have used ghost guns as a loophole to frustrate law enforcement. Exempting them from the rules that apply to other guns “poses an acute threat to public safety,” the government said. More than 19,000 ghost guns were recovered by police in 2021, a 1,000% increase from 2017. The total so far this year is 23,000.