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Supreme Court tells 5th Circuit to stop its defiance in ghost gun case

Ghost guns are unassembled and unmarked guns that can be bought online, and then assembled into fully operative guns. In August 2022, ATF issued regulations that required any such disassembled gun parts to carry serial numbers and required anyone buying them to pass a background check.
Yuki Iwamura
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AFP via Getty Images
Ghost guns are unassembled and unmarked guns that can be bought online, and then assembled into fully operative guns. In August 2022, ATF issued regulations that required any such disassembled gun parts to carry serial numbers and required anyone buying them to pass a background check.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday once again stepped in to leave in place the federal government's ban on so-called "ghost guns." These are unassembled and unmarked guns that can be bought online and then assembled into fully operative guns.

In August 2022, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives issued regulations that required any such disassembled gun parts to carry serial numbers and required anyone buying them to pass a background check, in the same manner as in-person gun buyers. The gun manufacturers challenged the regulations in court, and Federal Judge Reed O'Connor in Texas issued a nationwide injunction barring the rule from going into effect.

The Supreme Court, however, blocked those decisions from going into effect, whereupon two of the manufacturers returned to Judge O'Connor's court and won an order barring the government from enforcing its regulations. The 5th Circuit upheld that order, too.

The government asked the high court to void, rather than just pause, the lower court rulings to send a message that lower courts should not "countermand" the high court's "authoritative determination."

Now the Supreme Court has once again repudiated the lower courts, voiding the lower court orders and allowing the ATF regulations to go into effect pending further litigation.

There were no noted dissents.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Nina Totenberg is NPR's award-winning legal affairs correspondent. Her reports air regularly on NPR's critically acclaimed newsmagazines All Things Considered, Morning Edition, and Weekend Edition.

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