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Attorney General Ellison intervenes in court to regulate ghost guns

Joins coalition of 20 AGs to support new, commonsense federal regulation under attack by Texas gun-parts distributor


July 11, 2022 (SAINT PAUL) — In his latest step to stop the dangerous proliferation of ghost guns in Minnesota and nationally, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison today joined a coalition of 20 attorneys general in filing an amicus brief in support of an important new Biden Administration rule regulating “ghost guns.” Ghost guns are untraceable lethal weapons that can be made at home from weapon-parts kits that anyone — including felons, juveniles, and domestic abusers who are legally prohibited from possessing guns — can purchase online without background checks. Despite the obvious risk of ghost guns to public safety and the obvious benefits of regulating them, a Texas-based gun-parts distributor has sued in federal court in Texas to block the rule from taking effect, prompting Attorney General Ellison and the coalition to intervene.

“My job is to protect Minnesotans. In the current epidemic of gun violence, ghost guns are a major threat to Minnesotans’ safety,” Attorney General Ellison said. “The vast majority of Minnesotans, like the vast majority of Americans everywhere, want common-sense regulation of dangerous weapons, like requiring background checks and waiting periods and making sure that law enforcement can track illegal guns. I asked the Biden Administration to regulate ghost guns and they agreed. Now I’m outraged this rule is being challenged in court. I’m not going to sit back and let a greedy Texas gun-parts distributor get in the way of keeping Minnesotans safe from unregulated, untraceable, and deadly ghost guns,” Attorney General Ellison concluded.

The common-sense final rule of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms defines the key building blocks for ghost guns — weapon-parts kits and partially complete frames or receivers — as “firearms” under the federal Gun Control Act if they can be readily converted to function as such. In so doing, the final rule helps close a dangerous loophole in firearms regulation that enabled people to evade existing gun-safety laws and get their hands on these dangerous weapons. It helps ensure that buyers pass background checks before being able to purchase ghost-gun kits and that law enforcement officers can trace any self-made guns that are later used in a crime. It also limits gun traffickers’ ability to distribute these dangerous weapons.

Recent years have seen a dramatic proliferation of ghost guns. Nationally, law enforcement officers recovered 1,700 self-made guns in 2016, but more than 19,000 in 2021, an eleven-fold increase. In that five-year period, officers recovered more than 45,000 self-made guns nationally — more than 40 percent of which were recovered in 2021 alone. (See p. 10 of the brief.) Law enforcement officials in Minnesota anecdotally report a similarly sharp increase in ghost guns recovered in recent years.

Attorney General Ellison’s actions to halt proliferation of ghost guns

Today’s amicus brief is the latest action Attorney General Ellison has taken to halt or regulate the proliferation of ghost guns.

• On January 23, 2020, Attorney General Ellison joined a coalition of 21 attorneys general suing the Trump Administration to stop its effort to allow 3D-printed gun files to be released on the internet. On March 9, 2020, a federal judge granted the coalition’s request for an injunction blocking the regulation that would have allowed release of the files.

• On December 17, 2020, Attorney General Ellison joined a coalition of 19 attorneys general in an amicus brief to compel the Trump Administration to regulate ghost guns.

• On February 25, 2021, Attorney General Ellison joined a coalition of 19 attorneys general in a letter asking President Biden to intervene to stop the deregulation of ghost guns.

• On August 19, 2021, Attorney General Ellison joined a coalition of 22 attorneys general in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland encouraging the ATF to finalize regulations that would make clear that “ghost guns” are firearms under federal law. This is the same final rule that Attorney General Ellison filed the amicus brief today to support.

A 2022 bill (HF 4014/SF 3378, Sec. 18) that would make manufacturing, selling, purchasing, or possessing a ghost gun or undetectable firearm a felony in Minnesota did not receive a hearing in either house of the Minnesota Legislature.

Joining Attorney General Ellison in filing the amicus brief today was District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine, who led the brief along with the attorneys general of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington, and Wisconsin.


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