Justice Department Announces Filing of Statement of Interest in "Ghost Gun" Litigation
Breon Peace, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York (EDNY), in partnership with Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York (SDNY), and Brian M. Boynton, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, filed a Statement of Interest today in The City of New York v. Arm or Ally, LLC, to express the Justice Department’s views on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF)’s regulations concerning unfinished frame and receiver kits.
In the lawsuit, the City of New York alleges that multiple firearm businesses have sold tens of thousands of illegal, unfinished frames and receivers to New Yorkers. These frames and receivers, which are classified as firearms, were then converted into unserialized, untraceable handguns and assault-style weapons, known as “ghost guns.” Ghost guns contribute to the ongoing plague of gun violence.
The Department of Justice’s Statement of Interest informs the Court that the United States has serious concerns about the proliferation of untraceable firearms easily assembled from firearm parts kits and unfinished frames and receivers. The Statement of Interest makes clear that ATF has long held that the sale of all components necessary to produce a functional firearm are, and always have been, classified as the sale of a firearm under the Gun Control Act of 1968. Additionally, the Statement of Interest informs the Court of ATF’s authority to promulgate a rule updating its definition of “frame or receiver” and other statutory and regulatory terms.
Mr. Peace stated, “Ghost guns are a major contributor to the ongoing plague of gun violence. The United States will continue to employ every means available, including civil tools, to keep ghost guns and other illegal firearms out of the hands of criminals and reduce the risk of gun violence. The United States filed a Statement of Interest in this important litigation to ensure that the Court is informed of the federal government’s views of pertinent firearms statutes and regulations.”
Mr. Williams stated, “This Statement of Interest reflects the Department of Justice’s commitment to work with federal, state, and local law enforcement partners to combat the growing problem of ghost guns. This Office is determined to prevent criminals from accessing untraceable firearms easily assembled from firearms parts kits and unfinished frames and receivers.”
“Ghost guns have for years helped fuel an escalating trend of firearms-related violence,” ATF Special Agent in Charge DeVito said. “The updated federal regulations are an important step in abating that trend in our local communities. Today’s filing sends a message that the United States will do its part, using all available means, to support our local partners in their own efforts to curb the flow of these dangerous weapons to the criminal element and violent offenders.”
For the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, the filing of this Statement of Interest is part of EDNY’s larger Civil Initiative to Reduce Gun Violence. The EDNY’s Civil Initiative to Reduce Gun Violence was created earlier this year in recognition of the President’s directive to take a whole-of-government approach to combat the epidemic of gun violence and ensure public safety, and complements the EDNY’s Criminal Division’s successful efforts to reduce the scourge of gun-related crimes. The EDNY’s Civil Initiative to Reduce Gun Violence aims to collaborate with federal, state, and local officials, as well as community stakeholders, to address the root causes of gun-related crime, and supports reform efforts made across the government. In July 2021, the United States Attorney’s Offices for the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York also joined a cross-jurisdictional strike force to help reduce gun violence by disrupting illegal firearms trafficking in key regions across the country.
This matter, as well as the EDNY’s Civil Initiative to Reduce Gun Violence, are being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael Blume, Richard Hayes, Joseph Marutollo, and Bonni Perlin of the Eastern District of New York, with assistance from Paralegal Specialist Jill Merenda. This matter was handled in partnership with Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jeannette Vargas and Lucas Issacharoff of the Southern District of New York; Director Alexander K. Haas, Assistant Director Lesley Farby, Trial Attorneys Daniel Riess, and Martin M. Tomlinson of the Federal Programs Branch; and Director Gustav W. Eyler, Principal Deputy Director Amanda Liskamm, and Trial Attorneys Patrick Runkle and Daniel Crane-Hirsch of the Consumer Protection Branch.