New York Attorney General Letitia James joined a coalition of 23 attorneys general in filing an amicus brief supporting federal efforts to ban the possession of firearms whose serial numbers have been removed.
The brief, filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, urges the court to overturn a ruling from a federal judge in the United States District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia that a federal statute prohibiting possession of a gun whose serial number has been removed is unconstitutional. The brief, filed in United States v. Price, asserts that banning the possession of firearms with obliterated serial numbers is consistent with the laws of 42 States and the District of Columbia and is constitutional.
“Serial numbers are common-sense tools to track dangerous weapons and help keep guns out of the hands of bad actors,” said Attorney General James. “Declaring this gun safety measure unconstitutional could have dangerous impacts on the vast majority of American states, including here in New York. I am proud to stand with my fellow attorneys general in this bipartisan effort to protect American lives. So long as I am Attorney General, my office will always push for gun safety measures and efforts to remove weapons of war from New York communities.”
The amicus brief argues that the court should reverse the decision below and uphold the constitutionality of a federal criminal statute banning the possession of firearms whose serial numbers have been removed. An overwhelming majority of jurisdictions in the United States prohibit removing serial numbers or possessing weapons whose serial numbers have been removed. As the coalition of attorneys general notes, serial numbers are vital to tracing the origin and owner of a firearm used in the commission of a crime, which is crucial information used by law enforcement officials. The coalition also argues that the Second Amendment does not protect the right to possess a gun with an obliterated serial number, as the removal of a serial number is a clear indicator that a gun has been illegally trafficked and is being used or possessed for unlawful means.
Joining this bipartisan coalition of attorneys general in support of gun safety laws is part of Attorney General James’ ongoing efforts to protect New Yorkers from gun violence. Earlier this month, Attorney General James helped take down a dangerous ghost gun trafficking ring in coordination with the NY Drug Enforcement Task Force. Last month, Attorney General James cracked down on online ammunition sellers illegally shipping ammunition to New York. In June, Attorney General James sued 10 national gun distributors for illegally selling and bringing ghost gun parts into New York. In July 2020, Attorney General James ensured that 17 websites which manufacture and sell firearms or firearms components ceased selling nearly complete assault weapons into New York state. In February 2021, Attorney General James led a coalition of 21 attorneys general supporting states’ efforts to enforce laws against a company disseminating 3D-printed gun files on the internet. Additionally, through her successful gun buyback program, Attorney General James has been able to remove over 3,800 guns from New York communities since 2019.
Joining Attorney General James in filing today’s brief are the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Washington, the District of Columbia, and the Northern Mariana Islands.