Updated Aug 8, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Supreme Court temporarily revives Biden's "ghost guns" regulation

The Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., in June 2023. Photo: Celal Gunes/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed the Biden administration to enforce its regulation of "ghost guns," or untraceable firearms that are bought in pieces and assembled by the owner.

Why it matters: "Ghost guns" have become more prevalent in the U.S., complicating efforts by law enforcement to track firearms amid a wave of gun violence.

The big picture: In a 5-4 vote, the court stayed a Texas judge's ruling blocking the regulation.

  • Conservatives Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Amy Coney Barrett joined the court's three liberal justices in the majority.
  • Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh said they would've denied the Justice Department's application to temporarily reverse the lower court ruling.

What they're saying: "We're glad that the Supreme Court temporarily paused the lower courts' orders blocking the Biden-Harris Administration's efforts to curtail gun violence and save lives," White House deputy press secretary Olivia Dalton said in a statement on Tuesday.

Zoom in: The Biden administration regulation, announced in 2022, changed the definition of a firearm to include unfinished gun parts, like frames and receivers.

  • Under the rule, those firearm parts would be required to have serial numbers, and dealers selling them would have to perform background checks on potential buyers.
  • The decision was announced in a brief, meaning no reasons were given for the hold. It is also temporary, allowing the Biden administration to enforce the regulation while challenges play out in court.

Go deeper: U.S. averaging 2 mass shootings per day so far this year

Editor's Note: This story has been updated with comment from White House deputy press secretary Olivia Dalton.

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