WASHINGTON, D.C. – Attorney General Karl A. Racine, Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D-PA), and Attorney General Matt Platkin (D-NJ) today co-led a group of 20 Attorneys General in filing a friend of the court brief supporting the federal government’s efforts to regulate “ghost guns”: unserialized, untraceable weapons that are often made at home and purchased without background checks.
The new federal rule to regulate ghost guns—issued by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF)—will require that buyers pass background checks before purchasing weapons parts kits, and that law enforcement officers can trace self-made guns that are later used in a crime. It will also limit gun trafficker’s ability to bring these dangerous weapons into the District.
“Law enforcement leaders throughout the country, including the District of Columbia, are seizing an exponentially increasing number of ghosts guns that have been used in murders, robberies, carjackings, and other violent crime. The concerns of law enforcement that the flood of these unlicensed and undetectable guns, whose owners have not been subject to background checks required for other firearms, must be heeded. This new federal rule will help stop of the flow of these weapons and will save lives,” said AG Racine. “I’m proud of the work my office has done to crack down on ghost guns in the District, including winning a lawsuit against a major ghost gun manufacturer, Polymer80. We will continue to use every tool at our disposal to stop the proliferation of ghost guns in DC and nationwide.”
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 ATF’s Final Rule 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 a firearm. 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 has enabled people to evade existing gun laws and get their hands on these dangerous weapons.
A copy of the brief is available here.
Today’s brief was led by District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine, New Jersey Attorney General Matt Platkin, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, and joined by the Attorneys General from California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington, and Wisconsin.
OAG’s Efforts to Crack Down on Ghost Guns & Improve Public Safety in DC
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. In August 2022, he won a judgment against Polymer80, securing $4 million in penalties.
In July and August 2022, AG Racine led a coalition of 20 attorneys general in filing two additional briefs backing the new federal rule requiring serialization of weapon parts kits and partially complete frames and receivers, and requiring background checks to purchase these weapons. He previously led a coalition of 22 AGs calling on ATF to better regulate these weapons and improve public safety. In 2021, he also joined a White House meeting on holding gun manufacturers accountable and highlighted the need for more regulation of ghost guns. 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.