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Everytown, Brady, GIFFORDS, March For Our Lives File Amicus Brief to Reverse Fifth Circuit’s Dangerous Decision That Would Strike Down Portions of Life-Saving Ghost Gun Rule


WASHINGTON – Four of the nation’s leading gun violence prevention organizations – Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, GIFFORDS Law Center and March For Our Lives – today filed an amicus brief before the United States Supreme Court in support of the United States Department of Justice’s (DOJ) petition for certiorari in Garland v. VanDerStok.

The brief urges the Supreme Court to take up the case to reverse a Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decision that – were it not for the Supreme Court’s prior interventions – would strike down portions of the Biden Administration’s life-saving ghost gun rule. 

The Fifth Circuit’s dangerous decision, issued November 9, 2023, came after the Supreme Court twice reversed Fifth Circuit decisions that would have struck down or undermined the rule. While the most recent Fifth Circuit decision put ATF’s life-saving rule in peril once more, the rule remains in effect until the Supreme Court decides whether to hear the case.

The amicus brief can be found here.

Eric Tirschwell, Executive Director of Everytown Law:

“In recent years, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has made it a habit to issue extreme and dangerous decisions concerning gun safety. ATF’s ghost gun rule is a life-saving no-brainer: federal law clearly regulates not only finished firearms, but also gun building kits and the key components of firearms that can easily be converted into deadly weapons. We urge the Supreme Court to grant review of the Fifth Circuit’s dangerous ruling, and are confident the Administration’s life saving efforts will prevail.”

Douglas Letter, Chief Legal Officer of Brady:

“The prohibitors established in historical firearms legislation – which were incorporated into a background check system through the Brady Bill – are crucial to preserving public safety by preventing firearms from landing in dangerous hands. Ghost guns are designed to subvert that system. The Fifth Circuit’s decision to invalidate ATF’s rule undermines the lifesaving systems in place to stop the proliferation of these firearms, which only serve to worsen the gun violence epidemic.”

Kelly Percival, Litigation Attorney, GIFFORDS Law Center:

“If you can build IKEA furniture, you can build a ghost gun. The surge in ghost guns in recent years have led to more crime and have exacerbated our nation’s gun violence epidemic. People can build guns at home without ever going through a background check. That’s why it was so important for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to say the obvious: that ghost guns are guns. Now, this vital rule is under attack from the gun industry. It’s imperative that the Supreme Court take up this and put the safety of Americans first.”

Ciara Malone, Legal Director, March for Our Lives:

“Without regulating ghost guns, anyone can purchase and easily assemble the parts needed for a fully functional and deadly firearm–no background check required. Young people are especially vulnerable to these weapons as anyone, regardless of age, can purchase a ghost gun and have it delivered directly to their front door. Ghost guns exacerbate the already devastating impact firearms have on young people and and they must be regulated.” 

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 federal judge in the Northern District of Texas to block 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, the Supreme Court stayed the district court’s decision, allowing the rule to stay in effect until the Supreme Court decided on whether to take up the case for a decision on the merits. Flouting the Supreme Court’s order, the same federal judge in the Northern District of Texas again 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 issuing a decision that, if allowed to take effect, would invalidate the rule. 

As our brief urges, the Supreme Court should grant the petition here. If it fails to do so, as the Solicitor General warns, “The result would be a flood of untraceable ghost guns into our Nation’s communities, endangering the public and thwarting law-enforcement efforts to solve violent crimes.”

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.