The hidden side of politics

Supreme Court allows Biden ‘ghost gun’ regulations

Reported by CNBC: 

“Ghost guns” seized in federal law enforcement actions are displayed at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) field office in Glendale, California on April 18, 2022.

Robyn Beck | AFP | Getty Images

WASHINGTON — A divided Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed the Biden administration to enforce regulations aiming at clamping down on so-called “ghost guns” — firearm-making kits available online that people can assemble at home.

The court in a brief order put on hold a July 5 ruling by a federal judge in Texas that blocked the regulations nationwide.

The vote was 5-4, with conservatives Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Amy Coney Barrett joining the three liberal justices in the majority.

The Biden administration issued the regulations in 2022 in order to tackle what it claims has been an abrupt increase in the availability of ghost guns. The guns are difficult for law enforcement to trace, with the administration calling them a major threat to public safety.

The rule clarified that ghost guns fit within the definition of “firearm” under federal law, meaning that the government has the power to regulate them in the same way it regulates firearms manufactured and sold through the traditional process.

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The regulations require manufacturers and sellers of the kits to obtain licenses, mark the products with serial numbers, conduct background checks and maintain records.

Manufacturers and sellers have challenged the regulations in court, with two federal judges ruling in favor of the government.

But in Texas, Judge Reed O’Connor came to the opposite conclusion in a case brought by Jennifer VanDerStok and Michael Andren, people who own components that they want to use to build guns. Plaintiffs also include gun rights groups and makers and sellers of ghost guns.

The ruling harmed the public by “reopening the floodgates to the tide of untraceable ghost guns flowing into our nation’s communities. Once those guns are sold, the damage is done,” Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar, representing the Biden administration, wrote in court papers.

Lawyers for the challengers wrote in response that the 1968 Gun Control Act only regulates the commercial market for firearms, “leaving the law-abiding citizens of this country free to exercise their right to make firearms for their own use without overbearing federal regulation.”

The administration quickly turned to the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which declined to block the majority of O’Connor’s decision.

On July 28, Justice Samuel Alito temporarily put the Texas ruling on hold while the Supreme Court decided on what next steps to take.

The Supreme Court’s conservative majority has backed gun rights in multiple cases, including the landmark 2022 ruling that for the first time recognized that the Constitution’s Second Amendment includes a right to bear arms outside the home.

In the court’s coming term, which starts in October, the court will weigh the scope of that decision in a case concerning whether people accused of domestic violence have a right to own firearms.