The Biden administration was handed a victory by the Supreme Court earlier this week, albeit temporary, when the high court revived restrictions on ghost guns.
The emergency ruling was made on Tuesday and passed with a 5-4 vote. As a result of the ruling, the decision by a lower court that invalidated regulations on ghost guns across the country has been paused. This was done so the Biden administration is able to continue the appeals process over that decision.
Last year, the Biden administration announced new restrictions on ghost guns, which are firearms sold as DIY kits for people to put together at their homes. These guns are a concern for many people because they can be very hard for authorities to trace.
With the emergency ruling in place, the appeals process will play out at a lower appeals court. Oral arguments are set to take place in the case during September. It’s very possible that the full case could eventually be heard in front of the Supreme Court.
For now, the high court’s emergency ruling just means that the restrictions can remain in place while the full court process plays out.
In addition to the three liberal justices, conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett and Chief Justice John Roberts both voted to revive the ghost gun restrictions on a temporary basis. Conservatives Justices Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas all dissented.
Multiple gun rights groups have challenged the regulations, which the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is implementing.
Two months ago, a Texas federal judge ruled that the new regulations exceeded the authority the ATF has. In doing so, he vacated the ruling.
The case in question was filed by two gun owners, five different entities that either distribute or manufacture guns, as well as two different gun advocacy organizations.
The decision was later narrowed by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. However, the emergency ruling by the Supreme Court this week put the remainder of the decision by the judge in Texas on hold.
The issue at hand is how the agency places the restrictions on the ghost guns. It’s doing so by expanding the interpretation of two different provisions that are contained in a federal gun law that has been in place for some time.
The first provision clarifies the definition of a “firearm” to include certain kits for parts of a gun. The second provision defines a “frame or receiver” so that it now includes gun parts that are not assembled but could easily be converted back into a gun that functions.
In expanding these definitions, the ATF stretches federal requirements for record keeping, background checks and serial numbers to these ghost guns. That’s the part of the situation that the Texas judge ruled was outside of the scope of the law.
In arguing to the Supreme Court, the Department of Justice didn’t just say that the Texas judge was wrong in his legal basis for the decision. The agency say he also overstepped his own authority by making his ruling go into effect across the country.