SCOTUS Calls for Continued Regulation of “Ghost Guns”

( – Recently, the federal government lost a critical case in a District Court that would have allowed the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BATF) to redefine and regulate guns and ghost guns. Pending the appeal, the federal government filed for an emergency stay of judgment and lost, finally appealing the emergency stay with the Supreme Court. An August 8 SCOTUS order called for continued regulation of ghost guns pending the appeal by a narrow five to four margin.

In August of 2022, gun owners, manufacturers, and rights advocates joined together to file a lawsuit in the Northern Texas District Court against Attorney General Merrick Garland and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BATF) to stop the BATF from implementing new definitions, rules, and penalties about ghost guns. The plaintiffs won their case on July 25, 2023, prompting an immediate appeal from the federal government to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

Yet, the federal government and BATF sought to place ghost guns under the same regulations as fully assembled firearms until the completion of the appeal. Under the proposed BATF “final rule,” manufacturers would have to add serial numbers to handgun frames or long gun receivers and track sales of those parts, including performing background checks and licenses, as they would for assembled firearms. By contrast, US District Court Judge Reed O’Connor ruled the BATF fundamentally lacked the authority to redefine a gun in federal law because Congress holds that authority.

In appeals, the administration’s legal counsel Elizabeth Prelogar argued the importance of curbing the flow of ghost guns into potentially criminal or prohibited hands. The Justice Department told the High Court that law enforcement agencies had seized more than 19,000 ghost guns from crime scenes in 2021, representing an increase by a factor of more than 10 since 2016. The answer seems obvious to the solicitor general when she weighed the finite costs to manufacturers versus the incalculable costs to society.

However, by the strict interpretation of the Constitution, Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Brett Kavanaugh, and Neil Gorsuch would have allowed the lower court ruling to take effect and would insist that only Congress could legally redefine firearms.

~Here’s to Our Liberty!

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