Mayor Adams, D. A. Bragg Urge Supreme Court Uphold Commonsense Ghost Gun Regulation

July 2, 2024

 NYC Mayor Eric Adams — co-chair of Mayors Against Illegal Guns — and Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg, Jr. today announced the filing of an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in Garland v. VanDerStok.

The announcement is in support of federal regulations issued by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) that require ghost gun parts to have serial numbers and compel background checks for prospective buyers of ghost gun home-assembly kits.  

“Ghost guns are one of the fastest-growing threats to public safety, and this Supreme Court case threatens to open the doors wide open for even more of them to flow into our communities,” said Mayor Adams. “President Biden and ATF Director Dettelbach have led the strongest gun safety administration in history, and the ghost gun rule they finalized saves lives. It’s common sense: ghost guns are guns, so they should be regulated like guns — and we’re grateful to our state lawmakers for passing laws that recognize that. We will continue to do everything in our power to dam every river that feeds the sea of gun violence and endangers New Yorkers, especially our young people.” 

“The continued prevalence of ghost guns poses a major threat to public safety in New York City,” said Manhattan District Attorney Bragg. “While shootings and homicides are down double digits in Manhattan thanks to our close coordination with the NYPD and our federal partners, the technology behind ghost guns is rapidly evolving. These federal rules are a commonsense effort to make it easier for law enforcement to trace ghost guns when they are used in crimes and prevent them from falling into the hands of those who may already have a criminal history. Having strong, comprehensive federal regulation of firearms is absolutely essential for combating the scourge of gun violence and keeping our communities safe.” 

“Ghost guns are guns, plain and simple, and they are dangerous,” said City Hall Chief Counsel Lisa Zornberg. “New York City has been a national leader in addressing ghost guns, and the Biden administration’s rule is a sensible and necessary step to address this growing problem. I am proud to stand with the mayor and leaders from across the country in defense of this commonsense gun safety rule.”

The City of New York has already achieved major victories in its battle against the scourge of ghost guns, including through a successful lawsuit against out-of-state online retailers of these untraceable weapons,” said Acting New York City Corporation Counsel Muriel Goode-Trufant. “But the city cannot solve this nationwide problem by itself, and it needs every tool possible to protect New Yorkers. As detailed in our brief, the city supports the Biden administration’s commonsense regulations defining ghost guns by what they actually are — firearms. The Fifth Circuit’s dangerous decision deprives local police and prosecutors of a crucial tool that would enable them to more easily investigate and prevent crimes committed with ghost guns.”  

“Untraceable ghost guns empower criminals and continue to pose a grave threat to public safety across New York City and the nation,” said New York City Police Department (NYPD) Commissioner Edward A. Caban. “The men and women of our country’s largest municipal police department fully support the rule that requires these weapons and their component parts to be regulated like the firearms that they are. It will help get more felons off the streets, reduce crime, and save lives.” 

The amicus brief argues that both the NYPD and the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office have been at the forefront of combating the proliferation of ghost guns. Since the start of the Adams administration, the NYPD has already removed approximately 17,000 illegal guns from city streets, including more than 1,050 ghost guns. In 2020, the NYPD also created the Major Case Field Intelligence Team, which works closely with the city’s five district attorneys, as well as state and federal law enforcement, to stop the flow of ghost guns. 

Additionally, in 2020, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office established the Ghost Guns Initiative to tackle the growing proliferation of untraceable ghost guns in New York City. The initiative consists of a partnership between the D.A.’s Office and state and federal law enforcement partners that is dedicated to identifying and seeking relief against ghost gun builders and traffickers in the city.  

The brief also states that, “in just six years, the number of ghost guns in New York City has exploded by nearly 30 times.” The lack of federal regulation of “ghost-guns kits and components has allowed these firearms to fall into the hands of dangerous individuals who would otherwise be ineligible to possess these weapons under New York law.”  

Ghost guns are just as dangerous as traditional firearms, as they are “functionally indistinguishable from pre-assembled guns,” and “home-assembled firearms recovered by the NYPD have typically corresponded to specific models of commercially available pre-assembled guns.” Furthermore, “easily assembled ghost guns have become increasingly prevalent among individuals who would otherwise be banned from possessing firearms in New York,” and “home-assembly firearm kits are explicitly marketed as a means of bypassing gun-control laws.” 

The Adams administration has taken swift and urgent legal action to combat the growing threat that ghost guns pose to public safety. In May 2022, Mayor Adams called on ATF to revoke the federal firearms license of Polymer80 — the nation’s largest source of ghost guns used in crimes and recovered by law enforcement. Polymer80 is a plaintiff in this Supreme Court case.  

Additionally, in June 2022, following an undercover investigation, Mayor Adams launched a federal lawsuit against five online retailers for illegally selling ghost gun components and shipping them to addresses in New York City. By October 2022, the city reached agreements with four of those retailers and secured an injunction against the fifth that require them to immediately stop selling ghost gun components into New York City and to prevent any such sales in the future.  

The Adams administration has made tackling gun violence a centerpiece of its public safety platform. Early in the administration, in January 2022, Mayor Adams announced the “Blueprint to End Gun Violence,” which laid out numerous policy proposals to curb the scourge of gun violence that was plaguing New York City streets when the Adams administration came into office. One of the key initiatives in that blueprint was the creation of Neighborhood Safety Teams to focus on gun violence. Since their creation in March 2022, shootings across New York City have consistently gone down. 

Additionally, last summer, Mayor Adams announced the launch of the “Blueprint for Community Safety,” a nearly $500 million initiative that outlined a forward-thinking roadmap with upstream solutions to address gun violence throughout the five boroughs.  

As a result of the Adams administration’s focus on gun violence, both shootings and homicides were down by double-digits in each of the administration’s first two years in office. Both shootings and homicides remain down across New York City year to date as well, in addition to overall crime. 

“In recent years, ghost guns have become the weapon of choice for criminals nationwide. They have no place in our communities,” said Nick Suplina, senior vice president for law and policy, Everytown for Gun Safety. “Make no mistake: the ATF was right to confirm that the core building blocks of ghost guns are firearms under the law. The Supreme Court should reverse the Fifth Circuit’s reckless decision seeking to strike down this rule, and we thank Mayor Adams and District Attorney Bragg for their work to protect innocent people from further harm caused by these untraceable weapons.”

Photo credit: 1) Gun. 2) D. A. Bragg.

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