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Office of the
Illinois Attorney General
Kwame Raoul

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July 03, 2024

ChicagoAttorney General Kwame Raoul, as part of a coalition of 24 attorneys general, today asked the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold a federal rule recognizing that ghost guns – untraceable weapons often made at home from kits – constitute firearms under the federal Gun Control Act of 1968. In an amicus brief filed in Garland v. VanDerStok, Raoul and the coalition urge the Supreme Court to reverse a decision by an appeals court overturning the ghost gun rule, arguing the rule is a commonsense clarification of existing law that is necessary to prevent gun violence and help law enforcement to solve serious crimes.

“Ghost guns allow individuals who are not legally able to possess firearms to evade background checks and other safety measures,” Raoul said. “I urge the Supreme Court to reverse this decision and ensure these guns are not allowed on our streets and in our communities.” 

In recent years, gun violence has skyrocketed across the country, with gun-related homicides increasing by 45% between 2019 and 2021. At the same time, states reported an exponential increase in the number of untraceable, unserialized ghost guns recovered by law enforcement. Without federal regulation, these dangerous weapons proliferated, even in jurisdictions that attempted to regulate ghost guns themselves.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) issued a final rule to combat this growing problem by clarifying that the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA) applies to the key building blocks of ghost guns, including gun kits and partially complete frames and receivers. The GCA is a longstanding federal law that regulates gun ownership and sales in order to keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have them, including individuals convicted of felonies, domestic violence perpetrators, and children. The final rule clarifies that the definition of “firearms” includes kits and parts that can be easily converted to fully-functional firearms. This commonsense clarification does not ban gun kits, but rather subjects kits and nearly-complete guns to the same rules as conventionally manufactured firearms, including serial number and background check requirements.  

Raoul and the coalition urge the Supreme Court to uphold the ATF’s ghost gun rule, arguing that striking it down would harm public safety and hinder law enforcement. The attorneys general describe how the rule is consistent with the text, history and purpose of the GCA and demonstrates that the lower court’s decision was erroneous. They argue that the rule is necessary to close a dangerous loophole and stop people who are banned from owning guns from going around existing law, which they were able to do before gun kits were subject to the same regulations as other firearms. Additionally, Raoul and the coalition share early evidence that the rule is already improving public safety, as multiple jurisdictions have seen a drop in ghost gun recoveries since the rule went into effect in 2023.

Attorney General Raoul has persistently advocated at the federal and state levels to strengthen regulation of 3D-printed guns and ghost guns. The brief is the most recent step in Attorney General Raoul’s work to address gun violence throughout Illinois and across the nation. The Attorney General’s office created a state-of-the-art crime-gun tracing database for Illinois law enforcement called Crime Gun Connect. Raoul’s office also collaborates with local law enforcement to combat gun trafficking. Additionally, the Attorney General’s office works with law enforcement agencies and prosecutors to increase awareness of Illinois’ red flag law and to address gaps in Illinois’ firearms licensing system. The office also prosecutes individuals who lie on FOID card applications.

The Attorney General’s office partners with the U.S. Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center (NTAC) to try to avert violence by hosting trainings for law enforcement officers, educators, religious leaders and other community members that are designed to prevent targeted acts of violence.

Meanwhile, the Attorney General’s office also defends cases pending in courts across the state challenging Illinois’ regulations of firearms. Nationally, Attorney General Raoul successfully filed and resolved a lawsuit to get the federal firearm license of an unscrupulous arms manufacturer revoked.

In addition to supporting law enforcement efforts to keep communities safe from gun violence, the Attorney General’s office supports victims’ service providers around Illinois that offer trauma-informed services for crime victims and their families. Raoul’s Violence Prevention and Crime Victim Services Division administers a host of programs and services to assist survivors of violent crime. More information is available on the Attorney General’s website.

Joining Raoul in filing today’s amicus brief are the attorneys general of Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, the Northern Mariana Islands, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin.