Letitia James is the 67th Attorney General for the state of New York. (Photo courtesy of the Office of the New York State Attorney General)

Attorney General James Takes Action to Uphold Federal Ghost Gun Regulations

Attorney General Letitia James has joined a coalition of 24 attorneys general in urging the United States Supreme Court to uphold a federal rule that regulates ghost guns—untraceable weapons often made at home from kits—like other firearms. The coalition filed an amicus brief in Garland v. VanDerStok, urging the court to reverse a decision by an appeals court overturning this commonsense gun safety rule. In the brief, Attorney General James and the coalition argue that the rule clarifies existing law, is necessary to prevent gun violence, and helps law enforcement solve serious crimes.

“Gun safety laws save lives, and weakening these measures puts Americans in danger,” said Attorney General James. “Ghost guns are on the rise across the country, and stripping away federal rules that help regulate these deadly weapons will cause the problem to get worse. I am proud to stand with my fellow attorneys general as we call for this commonsense gun safety measure to stay in place, and for more to be done to protect our communities from senseless gun violence.”

As gun violence continues to plague the nation, states are seeing an increase in the number of untraceable, un-serialized ghost guns recovered by law enforcement. To combat the growing problem of ghost guns, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) issued a Final Rule in 2022, that clarifies the definition of “firearms” in the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA), to include kits and parts that can be easily converted to fully-functional firearms. The Final Rule does not ban gun kits, but it subjects gun kits and nearly-complete guns to the same rules as conventionally manufactured guns, including serial number and background check requirements. The commonsense rule was struck down by the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, ruling it was an impermissible expansion of the GCA, though the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the Final Rule to remain in effect while the appeal proceeds.

In the brief, Attorney General James and the coalition of attorneys general explain that striking down this federal regulation would harm public safety and hinder law enforcement. The coalition notes that the rule is consistent with the text, history, and purpose of the GCA and demonstrated that the Fifth Circuit’s decision was flawed. The coalition argues that the rule is necessary to close a dangerous perceived loophole and stop people who are banned from owning guns from making an end run around existing law—which they could do more easily before gun kits were subject to the same regulations as other firearms.

Joining Attorney General James in filing this amicus brief are the attorneys general of Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawai’i, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, the District of Colombia, and the Northern Mariana Islands.

Attorney General James has been a leader in the fight to protect New Yorkers and communities across the nation from gun violence. In May 2024, Attorney General James joined a coalition of attorneys general in urging the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit to allow Massachusetts’ decades-old ban on the sale and possession of assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines to remain in place. In March 2024, Attorney General James secured a $7.8 million judgment against gun retailer Indie Guns for illegally selling ghost gun components in New York. In February 2024, Attorney General James announced the takedowns of a gun trafficking network that sold ghost guns and assault-style rifles and a narcotics trafficking network in Dutchess County. In March 2023, Attorney General James secured a court order banning 10 gun distributors from selling and shipping ghost gun parts into New York. In December 2022, Attorney General James announced the takedown of a ghost gun trafficking operation in Queens and Westchester counties.

Information provided by the Office of Attorney General James.

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