Everytown Files Lawsuit Against ATF Seeking to Outlaw ‘Ghost Guns’

An AR-15 receiver with a solid fire control cavity area is not a firearm, according to the ATF. (Photo: ATF)

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.

SEE ALSO: Washington, D.C., Sues Polymer80 for Illegally Selling ‘Ghost Guns’ to District Residents

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.”

SEE ALSO: Rhode Island Bans ‘Ghost Guns’ w/ 10 Year Prison Sentence for Violators

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.

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About the author: Jordan Michaels has been reviewing firearm-related products for over four years and enjoying them for much longer. With family in Canada, he’s seen first hand how quickly the right to self-defense can be stripped from law-abiding citizens. He escaped that statist paradise at a young age, married a sixth-generation Texan, and currently lives in Waco. Follow him on Instagram @bornforgoodluck and email him at jordan@gunsamerica.com.

{ 14 comments… add one }
  • Robert Messmer August 29, 2020, 1:41 am

    IMHO the suit should be thrown out on jurisdictional grounds. The ATF is a federal agency therefore the suit should be in a DC federal court, not New York. Wasn’t New Jersey just slapped down for this same nonsense of going to a California court to sue a Texas based company?

  • RollinL August 28, 2020, 3:37 pm

    Serial numbers were not universally required until the 1968 gun control act, I believe. So nearly 200 years of American firearms manufacture and suddenly they think the law can be interpreted to require something different? Nothing in the history of the law requires a firearm to have a serial number unless it enters into commerce, and home manufacture for personal use does not qualify under the law. So this is an attempt to legislate via the Article III branch and Administrative fiat. My, are they desperate.

  • Allen Bussey August 28, 2020, 1:43 pm

    Before claiming “Ghost guns ” are substantially adding to the problem it would behoove these politicians to solve some of the gun crimes in their AOR. If the maker of the “Ghost gun” is not the committer of the crime then changing the current ATF position would not alter crime commission. As Americans we have the right to make “Not for Sale” firearms for personal use. The proposed change would unjustly create unwarranted dangers to novice makers of legal “Not for Sale” firearms by eliminating partially prepared critically specified components. Once an individual varies from legal specifications and creates a select fire capable firearm they have vialated the law.

  • Easy Eddie August 28, 2020, 12:34 pm

    I’d like to know how many ‘ghost guns’ used in the commission of a crime the Chicago PD has confiscated. Judging from the Dem’s claims we’d believe that there are warehouses full of them. And there are not. Perhaps it’s time for Everytown et al to get honest and admit it’s not about saving lives. If it was, then gun laws already on the books – Federal and State – would be enforced instead of quickly disappearing in plea bargains.

  • Michael J August 28, 2020, 11:52 am

    Aren’t all guns ghost guns if they’re stolen?

    • ted August 28, 2020, 8:31 pm

      NO, they are not . They WERE at least one time on paper as having existed. When they refer to a “ghost gun”, they are referring to a firearm that was made for personal use, but has no official record of having existed according to the authorities .

  • Ryan Menke August 28, 2020, 7:40 am

    Im actually suprised that the government isnt want to put locater chips on all the firearms in the usa! Boy that would suck. But if your a bad guy and you walk in a school it could warn everyone.

  • Anthony Romano August 28, 2020, 7:09 am

    My neighbor made a rifle from an 80% lower. I can tell you that the average person would not be able to do this without some required tools and knowledge of firearms. My neighbor is a handyman guy with a small drill press in his basement. Not the easiest thing to do! The average idiot criminal would never be up to the task!

    • ted August 28, 2020, 8:37 pm

      It would actually depend on the 80% firearm. I have made rifles and pistols. The Ar pattern METAL receivers, YES, they would require some skills. However, the polymer 80 pistols are quite easy to do with a dremel tool and a basic hand drill and a much lower skill set. Also, it is a lot easier to do a polymer AR pattern lower than the metal ones . SO, i can not fully agree with your statement when it comes to 80% in general.

  • Joseph Burge August 28, 2020, 6:44 am

    Temporal test:
    I would hope this ruling (if passed) will also remove all hardware from local hardware stores?

  • Christopher Henson August 28, 2020, 5:49 am

    Exactly, sit down and be stupid while I steal your possessions.

  • Jaque August 27, 2020, 8:20 pm

    How does a serial number on a firearm make it more dangerous than one without, traceable or not. Its bullshit. Do criminals obey laws ?

    If the American people are stupid enough to elect a communist government they deserve whats coming for them. Because we all know they won’t stop with guns.

    Jerks like pajama boy Swallwell and Beto will be victims of their perceived success.

  • Buckshott00 August 27, 2020, 1:11 pm

    What a load of bullshit. A temporal test? Really?
    So now it’s a crime to be technically oriented? To have good tools? These morons have no idea what it takes to create a working firearm and have elevated them and their creation to nigh on miraculous heights.

    Okay let’s play along:
    A temporal test, at what point does raw material i.e. blanks, ingots, bar-stock, become untenable provided I have good tools?
    A temporal test does not allow for the distinction of the skills of the individual nor the material removal (or addition) rates.
    A temporal test doesn’t allow for distinction of multiple in-process builds. Therefore this becomes a backdoor to registration as Everytown, will impress upon Liberal locales (and now apparently the ATF), that manufacturing is illegal and anything more than 1 at a time MUST somehow qualify as manufacturing, or that any home-builds count as manufacturing.

    This stupidity isn’t just dangerous to 2nd Amendment rights, it’s dangerous the technical development, skill set, and knowledge of our country. It is the infantilization of our communities.

  • SuperG August 27, 2020, 10:34 am

    I would think that a “ghost” gun would be used in a crime only after it was stolen from its lawful owner. But, again, we blame the tool for its misuse, and not the abuser. We only do this for guns, not for knives, cars, bats, etc.

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