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Attorney General Nessel Joins Coalition to Support Review of Ghost Gun Regulation Before the Supreme Court

LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has joined a coalition of 20 attorneys general in filing an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of the federal government’s request for review of a lower court decision invalidating commonsense “ghost gun” regulations.

The Final Rule, issued by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), clarifies that the definitions in the federal Gun Control Act (GCA) regulate ghost guns in the same way as conventional guns. Ghost guns are weapons without serial numbers that are often made at home from kits or partially complete frames and receivers, which can be purchased without background checks. These weapons are untraceable.

The Final Rule ensures that buyers pass background checks before purchasing such kits, that these kits and related parts have a unique serial number, and that these manufacturers keep records so that law enforcement officers can trace any self-made guns later used in a crime. It also limits gun traffickers’ ability to distribute these illegal weapons.

The amicus brief is co-led by Attorneys General Matthew J. Platkin of New Jersey, Michelle A. Henry of Pennsylvania, and Brian L. Schwalb of the District of Columbia. The brief notes that the Final Rule, portions of which have been in effect for more than six months and fill a crucial public safety gap, may already be working to stop gun violence.

“I have long asserted that ‘ghost guns’ - like any other firearm sold in this country – should be regulated under the law,” Nessel said. “These DIY firearm kits are readily converted into fully functioning weapons, and there has been significant growth over the past few years in the availability of these firearms.

“The Final Rule from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives closes the ‘ghost gun’ loophole and is consistent with both the language and purpose of the Gun Control Act. I stand firmly with my colleagues in supporting a commonsense, functional understanding of what a firearm is so that we can further protect our states, law enforcement officers, and communities from untraceable guns.”

AG Nessel’s continued support of ghost gun regulations is consistent with her efforts to combat the widespread problem of gun violence in the country. Since assuming office in 2019, Nessel has been an outspoken advocate for gun safety laws. These include initiatives to take undetectable ghost guns off the streets, a federal ban on handgun sales to anyone under 21, increased accountability for gun manufacturers, and a ban on weapons in state facilities such as the Capitol.

AG Nessel testified before the Michigan Senate in September of last year in support of gun safety legislation that established safe storage guidelines, expanded the number of background checks for gun purchases, and instituted an Extreme Risk Protection Order process. Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed the legislation into law in November 2023.

This is the not the first time that the states have defended this rational, logical regulation in the case, Garland v. VanDerStok. Previously, the coalition fought against a preliminary injunction by the Northern District of Texas, which ultimately vacated the entire rule. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit allowed parts of the rule to stand while states, again led by New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia, appealed to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court issued a 5-4 decision in August 2023, allowing the rule to continue on a provisional basis while the legal challenge continued.

The Fifth Circuit later invalidated key parts of the Final Rule, contrary to the intent of the GCA, as well as with prior court precedent. This grave decision, if allowed to stand, would allow these untraceable weapons to proliferate, harming law enforcement's abilities to investigate crimes and also allowing gun violence to flourish. It would also prevent states from protecting their own citizens – at least 15 states have enacted laws regulating weapon parts kits and partially complete frames or receivers, and 14 jurisdictions prohibit the possession of unserialized firearms.

In addition to New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia, the brief was joined by the Attorneys General of Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin.


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