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Supreme Court Grants Cert in Garland v. VanDerStok, Everytown for Gun Safety and Everytown Law Respond


NEW YORK – Today, the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari in Garland v. VanDerStok, which centers on a reckless decision from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals that would strike down portions of the Biden Administration’s 2022 life-saving ghost gun rule if allowed to take effect. The Fifth Circuit’s most recent decision, issued November 9, 2023, came after the Supreme Court twice reversed Fifth Circuit decisions that would have struck down or undermined the rule. Crucially, the rule remains in effect as the Supreme Court hears the case. 

“The Fifth Circuit continues to put the whims of the gun lobby ahead of public safety, attempting to invalidate a life-saving ghost gun rule that has been repeatedly upheld,” said Eric Tirschwell, Executive Director of Everytown Law. “We urge the Supreme Court to affirm the ATF’s rule confirming that ghost guns are to be treated like the deadly firearms they are. These weapons have exacerbated our nation’s gun violence epidemic and the ATF’s rule is absolutely critical to end their proliferation.”

“The facts here are simple: ghost guns are unserialized, untraceable firearms that can be easily put together in minutes from parts acquired without a background check. They undermine all of our gun safety laws, they pose unique risks to public safety, and they are becoming the weapon of choice for criminals nationwide,” said Nick Suplina, Senior Vice President for Law and Policy at Everytown for Gun Safety. “The Supreme Court should reverse the Fifth Circuit’s decision and allow the Department of Justice to protect innocent people from further harm caused by these deadly weapons.”

Just last month, 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 – filed an amicus brief before the Supreme Court in support of the United States Department of Justice’s (DOJ) petition for certiorari in Garland v. VanDerStok.

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 finding that the rule should be struck down. 

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.