Ghost guns are firearms assembled by the consumer and without serial numbers. They’re described as “Privately Made Firearms” by the federal government, constituting any gun not made by a licensed firearm manufacturer.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) rule was signed by U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland on April 11 and published in the Federal Register on April 26. It becomes effective on August 24.
The rule requires all Federal Firearms Licensee to “serialize” — mark with a serial number — any privately made firearm taken into its possession, excluding when a privately made firearm is temporarily attained for repairs.
“This requirement will allow licensees to comply with recordkeeping requirements when accepting PMFs and allow [the] ATF to trace those firearms through licensees’ records if involved in a crime,” reads an overview of the rule from the ATF.
It also requires background checks on the sale of unregulated unfinished gun parts, such as “80 percent lowers,” or blank receivers that cannot be fired without the application of other parts.
The rule further mandates that manufacturers retain all firearm records as long as it does licensed business — an increase from the current recordkeeping requirement of 20 years. Opponents like GOA worry that these records will eventually be converted into a “digital and searchable national gun registry.”
“This rule will make it harder for criminals and other prohibited persons to obtain untraceable guns, will help ensure that law enforcement officers can retrieve the information they need to solve crimes, and will help reduce the number of untraceable firearms flooding our communities,” Garland said of the rule in a statement back in April.
The release added, “Once implemented, this rule will clarify that parts kits that are readily convertible to firearms are subject to the same regulations as traditional firearms.”
The department estimated that in 2021 there were 19,344 privately made firearms in the U.S.
“Despite the ATF acknowledging serious issues with their preliminary rule, this anti-gun administration has made clear that they would not be deterred in going after ‘ghost guns’ one way or another,” Sam Paredes, a member of the Gun Owners Foundation board, said in a statement. The organization first filed the lawsuit challenging the rule’s constitutionality earlier this month and is now joined by the coalition of states.
The plaintiffs contend that the rule violates the federal prohibition on creating a national gun registry, abridges the First and Second Amendments, crosses the separation of powers, and qualifies as “arbitrary and capricious” along with running afoul of various other laws.
In their filing, Texas and the other states reiterate many statements made by GOA in its filing. Detailing the effect on the states, the brief reads, “If and when these companies are forced to halt sales or otherwise modify their business practices by implementation of the Final Rule, it is likely (if not certain) that they will be forced to lay off workers, resulting in additional unemployment within the plaintiff States directly caused by the federal government.”
In addition to the charges that the rule violates various constitutional rights and guarantees, the states make the practical argument that it would reduce employment in the gun industry, and increase the cost shouldered by the state government’s unemployment programs.
The court will now consider the plaintiffs’ argument before the rule becomes effective next month. The ATF filed a motion with the court to extend their reply deadline to August 24 — the day at which the rule becomes effective.
“In what does not appear to be a coincidence,” the plaintiffs state, objecting to the motion for extension, “the government seeks not a two-week extension or a three-week extension to respond, but precisely a 16-day extension, very specifically asking for a delay ‘through and including August 24, 2022,’ the very day the Final Rule is scheduled to take effect.”
“Defendant’s motion thus seems carefully calculated to moot Plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary injunction and deprive Plaintiffs of the relief they seek.”
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Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.