20 Attorneys General support federal rule regulating dangerous ghost guns

Twenty Attorneys General filed an amicus brief supporting an important new federal rule regulating ghost guns, the unserialized homemade firearms built from weapon parts kits that can be purchased without background checks. 

The rule will help ensure that buyers pass background checks before purchasing such kits and that law enforcement officers can trace any self-made guns that are later used in a crime.

According to the New Jersey State Police, 139 ghost guns were recovered by law enforcement in the state so far this year, including 23 that were used in shootings.

“Ghost guns are unlicensed, undetectable, and untraceable. They must be subject to regulation just like other guns. Period,” said District of Columbia Attorney General Karl A. Racine. “As undetectable, unmarked ghost guns continue to flood the district, this new federal rule will help curb the proliferation of these weapons and protect the lives of District residents.” 

 “I refuse to sit by while gun distributors challenge this critical and commonsense federal public safety rule,” said Racine. “As the country and the district face a gun violence epidemic, we must take every step to help make sure our residents are safe – and upholding this rule is critical in that effort. My office will continue to use every tool at our disposal to hold ghost gun manufacturers and distributors accountable.”

“There have been more mass shootings in the nation than days in the year in 2022,” said California Attorney General Rob Bonta. “I am in support of stronger federal efforts to curb the gun violence sweeping our country and the killing of thousands of Americans, including children. We refuse to accept that gun deaths are somehow normal when we know that there are effective strategies to stop them.” 

“We must use every tool at our disposal to address the epidemic of gun violence, and this proposed rule will help New Jersey and other states reduce the number of dangerous, untraceable firearms in our communities,” said New Jersey Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin. “This rule is another commonsense measure to keep residents safe, and will help save lives.”

Recent years have seen an exponential increase in the number of ghost guns recovered by law enforcement.

Absent federal enforcement, these dangerous weapons have continued to proliferate, including in states that have tried to regulate ghost guns themselves.

The Final Rule from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) would help curb this problem by serving as a vital backstop to existing state efforts to stem the flow of ghost guns. 

The ATF’s Final Rule regulates ghost guns by clarifying critical definitions in the Gun Control Act. Specifically, the Final Rule makes it clear that weapon parts kits and partially complete frames or receivers—the key building blocks for ghost guns—are “firearms” under the Act if they can be readily converted to function as such.

In making this sensible clarification, the Final Rule helps ensure that these kits and partially complete frames or receivers are subject to the same serialization and background check requirements as conventionally manufactured guns. This helps close a dangerous loophole in firearms regulation that enabled people to evade existing gun laws and get their hands on these dangerous weapons.

A copy of the brief is available here.

Today’s brief was led by Racine and the Attorneys General of New Jersey and Pennsylvania and joined by the Attorneys General California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington, and Wisconsin.  

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