WASHINGTON — The Biden administration’s new rule, which regulates untraceable home-buildable “ghost weapons” for the first time in the United States, may go into effect while a group of Republican-led states sue to overturn the policy, a judge ruled .
States’ request for an injunction against the policy was denied Tuesday by Chief US District Judge Peter Welte in Fargo, North Dakota, handing a significant victory to Democratic-run states and gun control groups. Almost all states took part in the case.
“This rule will make it more difficult for criminals and other prohibited persons to obtain untraceable weapons,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement. “It will help law enforcement officers get the information they need to solve crimes.”
Welte, an aide for former President Donald Trump, said a restraining order was not warranted because the lawsuit is unlikely to succeed on the merits. The judge ruled that the final rule, issued by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in April, met the standard for soliciting public comment and fell within the scope of the Gun Control Act of 1968.
“We’re still evaluating our options,” Stephen Stamboulieh, an attorney for Gun Owners of America and other plaintiffs suing alongside Republican-run states, said in a phone call. “We will continue to fight against the final rule of the ATF.”
According to DOJ data, nearly 20,000 ghost weapons were seized by law enforcement during criminal investigations last year, a more than 10-fold increase from 2016. In those six years, nearly 700 murder or attempted homicide investigations involved ghost weapons.
“The gun lobby wanted to block critical federal regulations on ghost guns to line their own pockets, but justice prevailed,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement. “The ATF rule will save lives.”
The rule updated the definitions of “firearm” and “frame or receiver” to allow for the regulation of kits and components, which are often sold online and easily assembled into ghost guns that are untraceable because they lack serial numbers.
“It is telling that the gun lobby, which is playing a big game about standing with law enforcement, has built a doomed defense of untraceable ghost guns that are increasingly becoming the weapon of choice for criminals and extremists,” John Feinblatt, President of Everytown for Gun Safety said in a statement. “The failure of the gun lobby will make our country safer.”
The advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety is supported by Michael Bloomberg, founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent company Bloomberg LP.
The GOP states argued in the complaint that the final rule would “make it exceedingly difficult (if not impossible) for the citizens of the complaining states to manufacture their own firearms.”
Republican attorneys general also argued that they had a right to sue because, among other things, banning the sale of ghost weapons would reduce state tax revenues.
The ATF responded to that argument in a previous court filing, saying such concerns were not necessarily accurate: “It is at least as likely that reducing the proliferation of untraceable weapons would lead to a decrease in violent crime, which would therefore increase the trafficking generated.” Tax revenue for the states.”