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AG Nessel to U.S. Attorney General Garland: Firearm Regulations Must Include Ghost Guns

LANSING - Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel joined a coalition of 22 attorneys general in submitting a comment to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) that encourages the agency to finalize regulations that would make clear that ghost guns are firearms under federal law. By finalizing regulations, the ATF would dramatically reduce the availability of untraceable guns and would take a significant step in addressing the current gun violence epidemic.

The proposed rule, Definition of 'Frame or Receiver' and Identification of Firearms, updates the ATF's interpretations of "firearm" and "frame or receiver" as used in the Gun Control Act of 1968 to clarify that weapon kits and incomplete weapon parts, both of which can be easily converted into functioning guns, are covered by the Act. The ATF's current regulations effectively allow people, including people prohibited from owning a gun under federal law, to obtain a weapon without undergoing any background check.  

"This rule takes a significant step toward remedying a major loophole that remains in the federal regulation of firearms," Nessel said. "It remains unconscionable that our current regulations do not require manufacturers of ghost guns to conduct background checks on individuals who make a purchase, nor do they prevent individuals deemed not permitted to obtain guns from doing so. Our federal partners must act to correct this glaring and dangerous contribution to gun violence." 

As the coalition explained, "Certain firearm dealers have capitalized on … loopholes [in the existing regulations] to market so-called 'ghost guns'-meaning weapons kits or partially complete receivers that can easily be converted into unserialized, operable weapons-outside the Gun Control Act's framework. As dealers highlight in their marketing, these ghost guns are unregulated and can be purchased by anyone." 

The comment also noted that, to maintain the integrity of the Gun Control Act, the ATF must revise its regulations so that they encompass modern gun designs. Otherwise, federal regulations cannot accomplish what Congress intended when it passed the Gun Control Act. 

"For the Gun Control Act to work as Congress envisioned, the manufacture, transfer, and possession of firearms must all occur within the Act's strictures. When any of that activity happens beyond the Act's parameters, the Gun Control Act is ineffectual at 'keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and others who should not have them, and assisting law enforcement authorities in investigating serious crimes.' ...The Bureau's non-enforcement of certain portions of the Gun Control Act has effectively created room for firearm manufacturers to openly defy the statute," the comment went on to explain. 

Nessel joined attorneys general from California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin in this comment. 

Previously, Nessel joined 17 other attorneys general in March in issuing a letter calling on U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to close the loophole after joining a different coalition in February that's fighting a lawsuit related to disseminating dangerous 3D-printed gun files on the internet

The Attorney General also joined a coalition of 19 attorneys general late last year urging the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York to compel the ATF regulate ghost guns.