Maryland files letter with SCOTUS to protect “ghost gun” regulations

12 March 2024- Maryland Attorney General Anthony G. Brown today joined a coalition of 20 attorneys general in filing an amicus brief with the Supreme Court, in the case Garland v. VanDerStok, in support of the federal government’s request for review of a lower court decision that invalidated commonsense “ghost gun” regulations. 

A “Final Rule” issued by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) ensured that ghost guns are regulated in the same way as conventional guns under the federal Gun Control Act. Ghost guns are weapons without serial numbers that are often made at home from kits or partially complete frames and receivers that can be purchased without background checks. These weapons are untraceable. 

The Final Rule ensures that buyers pass background checks before purchasing such kits, that these kits and related parts have a unique serial number, and that these manufacturers keep records, so that law enforcement officers can trace any self-made guns later used in a crime. It also limits gun traffickers’ ability to distribute these illegal weapons. 

“Ghost guns pose the same threat to our communities as ordinary guns,” said Attorney General Brown. “I am committed to protecting Marylanders and closing dangerous loopholes surrounding these deadly devices.”

In the brief, the coalition points out that the Final Rule, portions of which have been in effect for more than six months and fill a crucial public safety gap, may already be working to reduce gun violence. 

If allowed to stand, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit’s decision to invalidate key parts of the Final Rule would allow these untraceable weapons to flood communities, harming law enforcement’s ability to investigate crimes and increasing gun violence. It would also prevent states from protecting their own citizens. At least 15 states have enacted their own laws regulating weapon parts kits and partially complete frames or receivers, and 14 jurisdictions prohibit the possession of unserialized firearms. Maryland law prohibits the buying, selling, or transferring of an unfinished frame or receiver that isn’t imprinted with a serial number in accordance with federal law. Maryland law also prohibits the possession of firearms without a serial number, if the firearm is required to have a serial number under federal law. 

In submitting this brief, Attorney General Brown joins the attorneys general of Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin.