WASHINGTON, D.C. – Attorney General Karl A. Racine today, alongside his counterparts in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, led a group of 20 Attorneys General in filing an amicus brief supporting an important new federal rule regulating “ghost guns”: unserialized weapons that are often made at home from weapon parts kits or partially complete frames and receivers and can be purchased without background checks.
The rule will help ensure that buyers pass background checks before purchasing such kits and that law enforcement officers can trace any self-made guns that are later used in a crime. It will also limit gun traffickers’ ability to distribute these dangerous weapons into the District.
“Ghost guns are unlicensed, undetectable, and untraceable. They must be subject to regulation just like other guns. Period. As undetectable, unmarked ghost guns continue to flood the District, this new federal rule will help curb the proliferation of these weapons and protect the lives of District residents,” said AG Racine. “I refuse to sit by while gun distributors challenge this critical and commonsense federal public safety rule. As the country and the District face a gun violence epidemic, we must take every step to help make sure our residents are safe – and upholding this rule is critical in that effort. My office will continue to use every tool at our disposal to hold ghost gun manufacturers and distributors accountable.”
In recent years, the District has seen an exponential increase in the number of ghost guns recovered by law enforcement. For example, the Metropolitan Police Department recovered just three ghost guns in 2017 but 439 in 2021, a 146-fold increase. Absent federal enforcement, these dangerous weapons have continued to proliferate, including in states that have tried to regulate ghost guns themselves. The Final Rule from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) helps curb this problem by serving as a vital backstop to existing state efforts to stem the flow of ghost guns.
The ATF’s Final Rule regulates ghost guns by clarifying critical definitions in the Gun Control Act. Specifically, the Final Rule makes it clear that weapon parts kits and partially complete frames or receivers—the key building blocks for ghost guns—are “firearms” under the Act if they can be readily converted to function as such. In making this sensible clarification, the Final Rule helps ensure that these kits and partially complete frames or receivers are subject to the same serialization and background check requirements as conventionally manufactured guns. This helps close a dangerous loophole in firearms regulation that enabled people to evade existing gun laws and get their hands on these dangerous weapons.
This brief builds on AG Racine’s ongoing work to support reasonable gun safety regulations and protect District residents. The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) sued Polymer80 – a leading manufacturer of ghost guns in the United States and the company responsible for most of the ghost guns recovered in the District – for illegally advertising and selling them to District consumers. OAG was the first attorney general’s office in the country to file such a suit against Polymer80. AG Racine has also led multistate coalitions supporting California, New Jersey, and Vermont’s ban on large-capacity magazines. In 2020, AG Racine joined a multistate “ghost gun” lawsuit to prevent the federal government from making it easier to acquire 3D-printed firearms online. Last year, AG Racine also joined a White House meeting about holding gun manufacturers accountable and called on the Justice Department to better regulate ghost guns.
A copy of the brief is available here.
Today’s brief was led by AG Racine and the Attorneys General of New Jersey and Pennsylvania and joined by the Attorneys General California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington, and Wisconsin.