December 17, 2020
ATTORNEY GENERAL RAOUL SUPPORTS FEDERAL REGULATION OF ‘GHOST GUNS’
Raoul, Coalition Contend That Proliferation of Untraceable Firearms Endanger Residents and Impede Criminal Investigations and Prosecutions
Chicago — Attorney General Kwame Raoul today joined a coalition of 19 attorneys general urging the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York to compel the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to properly regulate untraceable partially-assembled “ghost guns.”
In an amicus brief filed in Syracuse v. ATF, Raoul and the coalition assert that the ATF must correct its unlawful 2015 interpretation of the Gun Control Act (GCA). Raoul and the attorneys general argue that the ATF’s improper reading of the GCA effectively allowed unlicensed online retailers to sell nearly-complete firearms that can easily be converted into fully-functioning weapons. They further argue that these ghost guns endanger the public and impede law enforcement’s ability to investigate and prosecute criminal activity.
“Ghost guns allow traffickers and extremists to avoid background checks and other important safety measures which protect communities and families,” Raoul said. “These weapons lack serial numbers and identifying marks, making it more difficult for law enforcement to trace them. Unregulated and untraceable firearms have no place in our communities, and I will continue to take action to prevent them from jeopardizing the safety of Illinois residents.”
From the 1980s through the early 2000s, the ATF classified the core components of handguns and rifles – frames and receivers – as firearms subject to federal regulation if the components could be quickly and easily converted into functioning guns. In 2015, the ATF reversed course. Without offering any explanation for changing its position, the ATF issued an interpretive rule stating that rifle receivers and handgun frames were not considered firearms. As a result of this unlawful misinterpretation, an industry has sprung up in which unlicensed online retailers sell nearly-complete guns directly to consumers. These weapons, sometimes called ghost guns because they lack serial numbers and identifying marks, are untraceable and sold without background checks.
On Aug. 26, Everytown for Gun Safety and four municipalities, including the city of Chicago, filed a suit against the ATF and the U.S. Department of Justice alleging that those defendants unlawfully concluded that ghost guns are not firearms under the GCA. In today’s amicus brief supporting the plaintiffs, Raoul and the coalition urge the court to require that the ATF properly regulate ghost guns because:
Joining Raoul in filing the brief are the attorneys general of Connecticut, Colorado, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.