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NJ AG Co-Leads Effort to Support Review of Ghost Gun Regulation Before the Supreme Court

New Jersey

By: Najla Alexander 

NJ AG authorities announced Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin is co-leading a coalition of 20 attorneys general in filing an amicus brief with the Supreme Court.

Officials stated in support of the federal government’s request for review of a lower court decision invalidating commonsense “ghost gun” regulations – regulations that are already showing every indication that they are working as intended to get these deadly weapons off New Jersey streets.AdThe Final Rule, issued by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), clarifies that the definitions in the federal Gun Control Act regulate ghost guns in the same way as conventional guns.

Ghost guns are weapons without serial numbers that are often made at home from kits or partially complete frames and receivers, which can be purchased without background checks, officials said.

Authorities say these weapons, which are untraceable, have been illegal in New Jersey since 2018.

Officials said 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 into New Jersey, accoridng to officials.

Attorney General Matthew J. Platki said the brief, which was also co-led by Attorneys General Brian L. Schwalb of the District of Columbia and Michelle A. Henry of Pennsylvania, notes 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 stop gun violence.

“The United States has a severe public health problem with gun violence, and states need all the help they can get to protect their residents from a patchwork of laws that create vulnerability to severe injury and death and hinder law enforcement efforts to investigate crimes,” said Attorney General Platkin.

“The data from law enforcement bears out the beneficial public health impact that this regulation has on keeping homemade guns out of the hands of criminals, young buyers, and other individuals who would not pass a background check.”

Specifically, officials say, the brief notes that before the Final Rule went into effect in August 2023, the New Jersey State Police (NJSP) recovered an average of 34 privately made firearms used in crimes per month from January to July 2023.

However, between August and December 2023, that number dropped to approximately 19 of these homemade crime guns per month, officials said.AdIn addition, NJSP numbers show that as of February 26, 2024, 26 privately made firearms were recovered in crime investigations for the first two months of 2024, compared to 76 in the first two months of 2023 – a nearly 66% drop in the same time period.

According to officials, although the data is preliminary and subject to being updated, it shows encouraging trends.

Officials say this is not the first time that the states have defended this rational, logical regulation in the case of Garland v. VanDerStok.

The states submitted amicus briefs at all stages of this litigation, including fighting against a preliminary injunction by the Northern District of Texas, which vacated the entire ATF rule, officials said.

Authorities say the coalition also filed an amicus brief at the Supreme Court previously, urging the Court to allow the ATF rule to remain in effect as the legal challenge continued.

The Supreme Court granted that request in August 2023, officials stated.

NJ AG officials said the brief was joined by the Attorneys General of Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin.

It is the second time this month Attorney General Platkin has gone to court to support commonsense restrictions against lethal weapons, officials said.

According to officials, on March 11, attorneys for New Jersey and Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings delivered oral arguments defending landmark firearms legislation before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

The case, Delaware State Sportsmen’s Association v. Delaware Department of Safety & Homeland Security, involves a challenge to Delaware’s restrictions on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines by plaintiffs affiliated with the National Rifle Association.