After a lower court struck down the regulations, the U.S. Supreme Court decided this week, 5-4, that it would temporarily reinstate the Biden administration’s ban against so-called “ghost guns.”
Ghost guns are prefabricated weapons component kits that may be supplied and put together in a way that almost renders them untraceable.
The conservative Chief Justice John G. Roberts along with Justice Amy Coney Barrett joined Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, and Ketanji Bown Jackson in temporarily re-instituting federal laws from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms that limit the sale of ghost gun kits nationwide.
The definition of a weapon was altered by the ATF regulation from 2022 as part of the Gun Control Act of 1968 which added kits that “may conveniently be modified to expel a projective by the action of an explosive.”
A Texas judge halted the ATF’s regulations in June, claiming they placed an excessive amount of restrictions on people’s right to bear arms.
The government filed an appeal of the ruling, but in July the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals mainly declined to overturn the lower court’s ruling.
Justice Samuel Alito delivered a ruling in July that temporarily reinstated the rule and gave those who were against it until August 4 to respond.
The move, according to Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar, did not outright forbid the sale of ghost gun kits but rather called for the kits to be licensed and labeled with serial numbers. She made this claim on behalf of the Biden administration. The modification would also mandate background checks for kit purchasers.
Prelogar said in her submission, “If a state imposed a tax on the sale of tables, chairs, sofas, and bookshelves, IKEA obviously could not evade that tax by arguing that it doesn’t offer any of those things and instead offers ‘furniture components kits’ that have to be assembled by the buyer.”
In the end, the court ultimately granted a stay and took the administration’s position.
The court’s decision permits the rules to be in effect while more legal disputes are ongoing rather than reinstating them permanently.
Almost 20,000 ‘ghost gun kits,’ as they are known, were seized by the police in 2021.