The (U.S.) Supreme Court on Tuesday granted a request by the Biden Administration to reinstate—at least for now—a federal regulation aimed at getting a handle on the rapidly growing trend of ‘ghost guns.’
The controversial ‘buy build shoot’ kits, which can be purchased online or in stores without a background check, are fueling a tenfold increase in the use of these weapons since 2016, according to White House statistics.
Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Amy Coney Barrett joined the court’s three liberal justices in their 5-4 decision, while conservative Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Brett Kavanaugh dissented.
The decision came after U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor in Fort Worth, Texas, blocked the 2022 rule nationwide pending the administration’s appeal. O’Connor found that the administration exceeded its authority under the 1968 federal law called the Gun Control Act in implementing the rule.
The regulation would have required serial numbers on all firearms and mandated that manufacturers and sellers be licensed to sell such weapons. Sellers would also be required to run background checks on purchasers prior to the sale.
The regulation was seen as a way to help law enforcement trace firearms used in criminal activity, but opponents of the rule argued that it violated the Gun Control Act and that it was an overreach by the administration.
A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll found that 70 percent of Americans support the rule requiring ghost guns to have serial numbers and be produced only by licensed manufacturers. The survey had bipartisan support among respondents, with 80 percent of Democrats and 61 percent of Republicans in favor.
The underlying dispute comes as the nation remains divided over how to address gun violence, including the prevalence of mass shootings. The Supreme Court has widened gun rights in three major rulings since 2008, including a decision in 2022 that declared for the first time that the U.S. Constitution protects an individual’s right to carry a handgun in public for self-defense.
In the meantime, the Justice Department has argued that allowing the O’Connor ruling has provoked an “irreversible flow of large numbers of untraceable ghost guns into our nation’s communities.”
The Supreme Court’s decision to reinstate the federal rule temporarily while the administration appeals the O’Connor ruling allows for further debate over the practicality of requiring licenses and background checks to buy build-shoot kits.
Ultimately, the Supreme Court’s ruling on the federal regulation will set the tone for how the nation handles the proliferation of ghost guns as the Biden Administration attempts to crack down on gun violence.