The Supreme Court for the second time in two months allowed the Biden administration to enforce regulations to clamp down on so-called ghost guns — the firearm-making kits available online that can be assembled at home.
In a brief unsigned order the court granted a request on Monday filed by the Biden administration to throw out a lower court ruling that gave two gun part manufacturers an exemption from the regulation while litigation continues. There was no sign of any dissenting votes.
The move was consistent with the Supreme Court’s decision in August to allow the regulations to be enforced nationwide while various legal challenges work their way through the court system.
In July, the court was divided 5-4 in favor of allowing the regulations to be enforced nationwide, with Chief Justice John Roberts and fellow conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett joining the three liberal justices in the majority.
Subsequent to that decision a federal judge in Texas ruled that regulations could not be enforced against the two companies — Blackhawk Manufacturing Group and Defense Distributed — while the litigation moves forward.
The New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that finding while concluding that the rule could still be enforced against the companies’ customers.
The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives issued the regulations last year to tackle what it claims has been an abrupt increase in the availability of ghost guns. The guns are difficult for law enforcement to trace, with the administration calling them a major threat to public safety.
The rule clarified that ghost guns fit within the definition of “firearm” under federal law, meaning the government has the power to regulate them the same way it regulates firearms manufactured and sold through the traditional process.
The regulations require manufacturers and sellers of the kits to obtain licenses, mark the products with serial numbers, conduct background checks and maintain records.
The Supreme Court’s conservative majority has backed gun rights in multiple cases, including the landmark 2022 ruling that for the first time recognized that the Constitution’s Second Amendment includes a right to bear arms outside the home.
In November, the court will weigh the scope of that decision in a case concerning whether people accused of domestic violence have a right to own firearms.
The ghost guns case, however, is on a separate legal question related to ATF’s regulatory authority, not the right to bear arms.