Supreme Court to Rule on Biden Administration’s Authority to Regulate ‘Ghost Guns’ Lacking Serial Numbers

By: Georgia | Published: Apr 22, 2024

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the Biden administration’s appeal regarding its ability to regulate ghost guns—those firearms assembled from kits that bypass traditional gun sales channels. 

These kits enable anyone to create weapons that are nearly impossible to trace, presenting unique legal and regulatory challenges.

Escalating to the Supreme Court

The need for Supreme Court intervention came after a lower court rejected the administration’s regulatory efforts. 

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The facade of the United States Supreme Court building captured at twilight. The building is illuminated from within, with the iconic pillars and steps leading up to the entrance clearly visible. The inscription "Equal Justice Under Law" is prominently displayed above the columns

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The high court’s prior decision last August to let the rules stay in effect temporarily illustrates the pressing nature and complexity of the debate.

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Divided Judicial Opinions

While some justices wanted to block the regulations, they remain in force, highlighting a split within the Supreme Court itself. 

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Various components of a disassembled ghost gun laid out on a table. The parts include the main frame of the gun, the barrel, springs, trigger mechanism, and other small components essential for assembly

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The differing views among the justices reflect deep divisions on how to approach this emerging issue.

Ghost Guns in the Legal Limelight

This ghost gun case marks the first gun control issue the Supreme Court will address in its upcoming term.

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The interior of the Supreme Court chamber viewed from behind lush red curtains. The room is empty, showing rows of leather chairs and a long bench where the Supreme Court Justices sit during sessions, under a large clock set in a marble wall

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It’s part of a broader slate of cases that will examine the extent of gun rights, including rulings on domestic violence and bump stocks.

Biden Tightens the Reins on Ghost Guns

In 2022, President Joe Biden enacted regulations that treat ghost gun kits like traditional firearms, requiring similar oversight such as detailed sales records to help police trace these weapons. 

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President Joe Biden speaking at an event, gesturing with his right hand. He is dressed in a dark suit with a blue tie, speaking into a microphone against a blurred background

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Biden has vocally criticized these kits, stating, “These guns are weapons of choice for many criminals.”

Pushback from the Judiciary

A panel of Trump-appointed judges at the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals opposed the new regulations, arguing the Biden administration was overreaching by attempting to redefine gun control laws. 

A side-angle view of a white classical government building with columns and intricate stone carvings

Source: Wikimedia Commons

They firmly stated, “Only Congress may make the deliberate and reasoned decision to enact new or modified legislation regarding firearms.”

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The Administration’s Legal Standpoint

The Biden administration defended its stance to the Supreme Court, asserting that its regulations align with the clear language of existing laws. 

President Joe Biden, wearing a dark suit and a striped tie, is captured in a passionate moment, pointing his finger upwards while addressing a concern during a speech

Source: Wikimedia Commons

They warned of the ease with which individuals could otherwise bypass legal safeguards, leading to a proliferation of hard-to-trace ghost guns.

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The Debate Over Definitions

Gun control advocates are pressing for a broader definition of firearms to include components used in ghost guns, pointing to frequent recoveries at crime scenes as evidence of their threat. 

An evidence photo showcasing a seized ghost gun and magazine next to a ruler for scale. The gun and magazine are placed inside a cardboard box, with a 'PHOTO ID NUMBER 1' orange placard at the bottom right, indicating this is part of a documented investigation

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Last year alone, law enforcement reported recovering nearly 14,000 suspected ghost guns, USA Today reports.

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Spotlight on Polymer80

Polymer80, noted for producing over 80% of ghost guns found at crime scenes in recent years, finds itself at the center of this regulatory storm. 

A close-up of a red Polymer80 milling kit, used for making ghost gun frames. The kit includes various compartments and cavities for the different components required in the gun-making process, with the brand name 'POLYMER80' prominently displayed at the top

Source: Polymer80/Facebook

The company’s prominent role in the ghost gun market has drawn significant legal attention and scrutiny.

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Manufacturers Face Economic Threats

Companies like Polymer80 argue that the new regulations severely impact their business, potentially dismantling an industry segment that operates under Second Amendment protections. 

Several Polymer80 ghost gun frames and milling kits are displayed on a table. The frames are in various stages of completion, with some encased in the milling kits and others fully assembled, illustrating the process of constructing a ghost gun

Source: Polymer80/Facebook

They claim these regulations are pushing them toward financial ruin.

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A Decision of National Consequence

As the Supreme Court gears up to decide on this matter, the stakes are high with widespread implications for national gun control policies and Second Amendment rights. 

A sunny day view of the United States Supreme Court building with steps leading to the entrance. The scene is adorned with blossoming pink trees on either side of a circular plaza with a central fountain

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The outcome could reshape the regulatory landscape for ghost guns across the country.

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Setting Precedents for Gun Control

The impending Supreme Court decision is expected to set crucial precedents for the regulation of ghost guns in America. 

A protest sign at a rally supporting the Second Amendment. The handwritten sign reads, "HAMMER, SCREWDRIVERS AND KNIVES KILL MORE PEOPLE THAN RIFLES. 2nd AMENDMENT PROTECTS YOUR FREEDOM AND LIBERTIES," with a small American flag attached at the top. The background shows a crowd of demonstrators with various flags and banners outside a government building

Source: Wikimedia Commons

This ruling will not only affect public safety but also shape the ongoing national discourse on balancing gun rights with regulatory needs. The legal, political, and public spheres are watching closely.

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