The number of ghost guns recovered by law enforcement in the US has increased at an alarming rate—rising 398% from 2016 to 2020. Nearly 24,000 ghost guns were recovered across the country during that five-year period. President Biden’s administration officials said such weapons had soared in popularity in recent years, particularly among criminals barred from buying ordinary guns.
Ghost guns are do-it-yourself, homemade guns, produced with simple building blocks available online. In May 2021, the federal government proposed a rule that would finally clarify that these parts qualify as traditional firearms, and must be sold with serial numbers and background checks. Several states – including Washington State – have also acted, including with requirements that all ghost guns must be reported to officials. The strongest laws also regulate the spread of guns that can be made with 3-D printers.
THE COURT’S ORDER
The court’s brief order gave no reasons, which is typical when the justices act on emergency applications. The order was provisional, leaving the regulation in place while a challenge moves forward in the courts.
THE VOTING SPLIT
The vote was 5 to 4, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Amy Coney Barrett joining the court’s three liberal members — Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson — to form a majority.
Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr., Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh noted dissents. Like the justices in the majority, they did not explain their reasoning.
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