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Supreme Court agrees to hear dispute over Biden administration’s ‘ghost guns’ rule

Washington- The Supreme Court agreed Monday to review a lower court ruling that struck down a Biden administration rule aimed at combating the proliferation of crimes involving “ghost weapons“.

THE regulation in question was implemented by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in April 2022 and imposed a series of requirements on manufacturers and sellers of so-called ghost guns, which are non-serialized firearms that can be assembled from kits sold online.

The ATF rule amended the definition of “firearm” under the Gun Control Act to include certain gun parts kits and clarified that it includes partially completed parts such as the frame or the receiver. Due to regulations, covered manufacturers and sellers must obtain licenses, mark their products with serial numbers, conduct background checks, and maintain purchase records, all of which are required for manufactured firearms and sold in the United States.

The rule applies to all ghost guns, including those made with 3D printers or sold in assembly kits.

A group of gun owners, advocacy groups and ghost gun distributors filed a lawsuit against the ATF in August 2022, arguing that both parts of its rule, regarding the term “frame or receiver” and the definition of “firearm”, were beyond his authority. A federal district court in Texas sided with the protesters, finding that the gun control law does not “cover gun parts or aggregates of gun parts,” whether they may or not be assembled into “something that can fire a projectile”.

The district court struck down the entire settlement, including those not at issue in the lawsuit.

The Biden administration appealed, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit stayed the lower court’s order regarding the uncontested portions of the rule. The Supreme Court then suspended the full decision in a 5-4 decision, allowing the ATF to enforce the restrictions while legal proceedings continued. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Amy Coney Barrett joined the three liberal justices to form the majority.

The 5th Circuit subsequently ruled that the Gun Control Act’s definition of “firearm” did not include gun parts kits and struck down the rule’s provision involving the term “frame or receiver”.

The Justice Department asked the Supreme Court to review the appeals court’s decision in February, arguing that it contradicted the very text of the gun control law.

“Under the Fifth Circuit’s interpretation, anyone can purchase a kit online and assemble a fully functional weapon in minutes – no background checks, records or serial numbers required,” he said. he told the Supreme Court. “The result would be a flood of untraceable phantom guns in our nation’s communities, endangering the public and thwarting law enforcement’s efforts to solve violent crime.”

The Biden administration told the court that gun parts kits can be converted into a fully functional firearm in just 21 minutes, and that ghost guns allow felons, juveniles and other prohibited people to purchase firearms to circumvent the law.

If left in place, the 5th Circuit’s ruling would give gun parts manufacturers and distributors the “green light to resume unfettered distribution” without background checks, records or serial numbers, posing a “threat acute” for public safety, according to the Biden administration. said.

He noted that since 2017, the number of ghost guns recovered by law enforcement has increased by 1,000% each year.

Opponents of the ATF rule also urged the Supreme Court to decide its validity “once and for all.” They told the high court in a filing that the rule’s provisions are “fundamentally inconsistent” with the Gun Control Act’s definition of a firearm.

“This expanded definition upends the delicate balance established by Congress between the commercial production and sale of firearms and the noncommercial manufacturing of firearms by law-abiding citizens,” the group said.

They accused the Biden administration of seeking to destroy the industry that caters to law-abiding citizens making their own guns and said that if the definition of “firearm” is now considered unsatisfactory, it is a question that Congress must resolve.

“The ATF is not free to expand the scope of the GCA without the blessing of Congress,” the challengers argued.

The case will be argued during the Supreme Court’s next term, which begins in October.

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