The gun-control group Everytown for Gun Safety has filed a lawsuit asking a federal court to force the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) to change its interpretation of the Gun Control Act to outlaw “ghost guns.”
Everytown Law, the litigation arm of Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on behalf of the mayors of Syracuse, NY, San Jose, CA, Chicago, IL, and Columbia, SC.
The suit claims that the proliferation of non-serialized rifles and pistols is a threat to public safety and the ATF has a duty to reverse its previous determinations.
“ATF’s failures mean it is far too easy for anyone with a credit card and a computer to get their hands on an untraceable gun with no serial number without ever having to leave their home,” said Eric Tirschwell, managing director for Everytown Law.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, one of the plaintiffs in the case, blamed her city’s rising homicide rates, in part, on ghost guns.
“As I’ve said many times, if the federal government really wants to help cities like Chicago address our gun violence crisis, there are several things they can do, like universal background checks and closing simple loopholes. This lawsuit underscores our ongoing efforts to stop gun violence,” Lightfoot said.”It’s simple – individuals with dangerous histories shouldn’t be able to order lethal weapons on the internet with a few quick clicks.”
“Ghost guns” refer to firearms that have been constructed from “80-percent” lower receivers. Unlike most receivers for pistols and rifles, these receivers are not considered firearms by the ATF and do not require a background check to purchase. Users must drill out portions of the receiver before they can be used, so the ATF determined that they do not constitute firearms under the Gun Control Act of 1968.
Everytown disagrees, arguing that the language of the Gun Control Act clearly categorizes 80-percent lowers as firearms.
According to the statue, “The term ‘firearm’ means (A) any weapon (including a starter gun) which will or is designed to or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive; (B) the frame or receiver of any such weapon.”
Everytown holds that 80-percent lowers are so easy to convert to functioning receivers that they fall under the “readily be converted” category. They argue that the ATF should use a “temporal test” to determine whether an item is a firearm, that is, how long it takes someone to convert the 80-percent receiver into a functioning receiver.
The ATF, however, has used what Everytown calls a “solidity test.” Under this test, “receivers” do not constitute firearms if the fire-control area is completely solid or unmachined. Everytown claims that the ATF used the temporal test prior to April 2006, when they converted to the solidity test.
The U.S. district court will be tasked with ruling whether Everytown’s temporal test or the ATF’s solidity test is more consistent with the language of the Gun Control Act. If it rules in Everytown’s favor, 80-percent receivers will be subject to the same regulations as fully functional receivers.