U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito yesterday temporarily blocked a lower court’s decision to invalidate a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) regulation aimed at restricting privately made firearms known as “ghost guns” that are difficult for law enforcement to trace.
The Biden-Harris administration had sought support from the Supreme Court following a ruling from a federal district court in Texas, which found that ATF acted beyond the scope of its statutory authority. The challenge to the rule was brought by Texas residents who own components that they say are intended for personal use ghost gun manufacture. Gun rights groups have also challenged the rule.
Justice Alito’s action revives the ATF regulation for now. The administrative stay expires at 5 p.m. on August 4 and those challenging the ATF rule have until 5 p.m. August 2 to respond to the administration’s request to reinstate the regulation.
The ATF rule “clarifies that the definition of ‘firearm’ includes a weapon parts kit that is designed to or may readily be completed, assembled, restored, or otherwise converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive,” and defines a Privately Made Firearm (PMF) as a “firearm, including a frame or receiver, completed, assembled, or otherwise produced by a person other than a licensed manufacturer, and without a serial number placed by a licensed manufacturer at the time the firearm was produced.” Under the ruling, all federal firearms licensees who take a PMF into their inventory will be required to mark the weapon with a unique serial number on a metal plate — not directly on the polymer of a printed gun, as this would be “susceptible [to] being readily obliterated, altered or removed” — within at least seven days in order to “allow ATF to trace those firearms through licensees’ records if involved in a crime.”
In March, ATF issued a public safety advisory to the firearms industry and the public regarding the application of the rule. The advisory highlights the public safety threats addressed by the rule and makes clear that ATF will continue to prioritize investigations involving willful efforts to violate the provisions of the Gun Control Act, as implemented in the final rule, regulating the manufacture and sale of firearm frames and receivers.
ATF said earlier this year that some suppliers of partially complete frames or receivers appear to be attempting to willfully circumvent the rule by selling parts from the type of firearms parts kit covered by the final rule in separate transactions or coordinating with other distributors to sell, market or make available individual parts that, when put together, create a frame or receiver.