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AG Nessel Urges Supreme Court to Uphold Federal Ghost Gun Regulations

LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has joined a group of 24 attorneys general urging the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold a federal rule that regulates ghost guns—untraceable weapons often made at home from kits—like other firearms. In an amicus brief filed in Garland v. VanDerStok, the coalition urges the Supreme Court to reverse a mistaken decision by an appeals court overturning the ghost gun rule, and argues that the rule is a common-sense clarification of existing law that is necessary to prevent gun violence and help law enforcement solve serious crimes. 

“Ghost guns pose a significant threat to public safety, making it easy for those prohibited from possessing firearms to assemble untraceable weapons,” said Nessel. “Closing this deadly loophole is critical in our efforts to ensure that all firearms, even those built from kits, are subject to the same legal standards. I stand staunchly with my colleagues in supporting this regulation, which will help lower the rate of gun violence and aid law enforcement in their efforts to protect our communities.” 

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) issued a Final Rule to combat this growing problem by clarifying that the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA) applies to the key building blocks of ghost guns, including gun kits and partially complete frames and receivers. The GCA is a longstanding federal law that regulates gun ownership and sales and keeps guns out of the hands of people who should not have them, including individuals convicted of felonies, domestic violence perpetrators, and children. The Final Rule clarifies that the definition of “firearms” includes kits and parts that can be easily converted to fully functional firearms. This common-sense clarification does not ban gun kits. Rather, it subjects kits and nearly-complete guns to the same rules as conventionally manufactured guns—including serial number and background check requirements.  

The rule was challenged, and the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit struck it down as an impermissible expansion of the GCA—though the court has allowed it to remain in effect during the appeal. That case, Garland v. VanDerStok, will be heard by the Supreme Court during its next term. 

AG Nessel and the coalition are urging the Supreme Court to uphold the ATF’s ghost gun rule, arguing that striking it down would harm public safety and hinder law enforcement. The attorneys general describe how the rule is consistent with the text, history, and purpose of the GCA and demonstrate that the Fifth Circuit’s decision was erroneous.   

A copy of the brief is available here (PDF).

The brief was co-led by the attorneys general of the District of Columbia, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, and they were joined by the attorneys general of Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, the Northern Mariana Islands, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin.


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