• Press Release

March For Our Lives, Everytown, Brady Amicus Brief Calling on SCOTUS to Reverse the Fifth Circuit’s Dangerous Decision Striking Down Portions of Life-Saving Ghost Gun Rule

WASHINGTON – Three of the nation’s leading gun violence prevention organizations – March For Our Lives, Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, and Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence – today filed an amicus brief before the United States Supreme Court in Garland v. VanDerStok.

The brief urges the Supreme Court to reverse a reckless decision from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals striking down portions of the Biden-Harris Administration’s 2022 life-saving ghost gun rule. Crucially, however, the rule remains in effect while the Supreme Court considers the case.  The Fifth Circuit’s most recent decision, issued November 9, 2023, came after the Supreme Court twice reversed Fifth Circuit decisions that struck down or undermined the rule. The amicus brief can be found here.

Ciara Malone, Legal Director, March for Our Lives:

“There is no other purpose to a ghost gun kit other than for a user to turn it into a fully functioning and deadly firearm, complete with instructions from the manufacturer. Allowing their unregulated sale would tear a gaping hole into our already fragile system of gun safety, allowing everyone from felons to underage minors to purchase a gun. The danger this presents is already clear, as unserialized firearms show up in a skyrocketing number of crime scenes. Affirming the 5th circuit’s decision is simply a vote in favor of gun manufacturers profits at the expense of human life, and we urge the Supreme Court to reverse it and protect America’s children and young people.”

Eric Tirschwell, Executive Director of Everytown Law:

“The Fifth Circuit continues to put the whims of the gun lobby ahead of public safety, attempting to invalidate a life-saving ghost gun rule that has been repeatedly upheld. We urge the Supreme Court to affirm the ATF’s rule confirming that ghost guns are to be treated like the deadly firearms they are. These weapons have exacerbated our nation’s gun violence epidemic and the ATF’s rule is absolutely critical to ending their proliferation.”

Douglas Letter, Chief Legal Officer of Brady:

“The ATF’s rule on ghost guns simply makes an important clarification — ghost guns are guns and should be regulated as such. These weapons are unserialized, untraceable, easy to assemble, and before this rule, were accessible to even prohibited purchasers and minors. They are by definition the perfect crime guns. This rule has already begun to curtail the market of untraceable firearms, but if the Supreme Court upholds the Fifth Circuit’s latest attempt to invalidate our nation’s gun laws, it will not just be a step backward for public safety, it will inevitably cost lives.”

The ATF’s rule, which was finalized in April 2022 and took effect in August 2022, confirms that ghost guns are to be treated like the deadly firearms they are. ATF’s rule updated and clarified key definitions, including “firearm,” “frame,” and “receiver” to ensure that kits and components that are easily assembled into untraceable ghost guns are subject to the same regulations as firearms. 

Following an extreme decision by a Texas federal judge to strike down ATF’s rule, the Fifth Circuit, without any meaningful explanation, declined to put the lower court’s order on hold, prompting the Supreme Court to intervene. In August 2023, the Supreme Court stayed the district court’s decision, allowing the rule to remain in effect until the Supreme Court decided whether to take up the case for a decision on the merits. Flouting the Supreme Court’s order, the same federal judge in Texas then blocked ATF from enforcing the rule against two ghost gun distributors. The Fifth Circuit affirmed. In requesting the Supreme Court to step in, the U.S. Solicitor General characterized the lower courts’ decisions as “extraordinary and unprecedented.” The Supreme Court unanimously reversed the Fifth Circuit’s decision. The Fifth Circuit then doubled down, again finding that the rule should be struck down. 

Everytown has compiled examples of ghost gun shootings from across the country since 2013, available here. Everytown’s report on ghost guns, featuring testimonials from law enforcement officers, can be found here. An informational guide on ghost guns is provided by Brady here.