Supreme Court to consider Biden 'ghost guns' rule as charges surge

The U.S. Supreme Court announced this week it will consider whether the Biden administration has the authority to regulate ghost guns.

Ghost guns are virtually untraceable with no serial number and were not previously subject to background checks. They’re often built with 3D-printers or purchased in unassembled kits online.

In 2022, the Biden administration implemented a rule that would treat the kits as a firearm.  

"These guns are weapons of choice for many criminals," President Biden said while announcing the ghost gun rule. "We’re going to do everything we can to deprive them of that choice."

The FOX 9 Investigators previously highlighted high-profile cases involving ghost guns, including a shooting at the Mall of America.

A review of court records and evidence files reveals ghost guns have also ended up in the hands of underage teens. 

In the ATF’s first firearms report in 20 years, the federal government said 37,980 ghost guns were reported between 2017 and 2021.

In Minnesota, at least 187 ghost guns were recovered in that same timeframe.

A federal judge in Texas threw out the rule nationwide but the Supreme Court intervened at the time, allowing the ghost gun rule to remain in effect.

"It does give us insight into what some of these justices were thinking," said University of Minnesota law professor Megan Walsh. 

Lower appeals courts struck down the rule until the U.S. Supreme Court announced this week it will take on the full case. 

"It’s not a Second Amendment case. It’s not a challenge saying ‘I have a right to keep and bear arms and this rule violates that,’ this is an administrative law change, which is very different," Walsh said. "It’s basically saying that the Biden administration is overstepping its authority to regulate firearms."

The Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments on the case in its next term, which begins in October. Until then, the court said the ghost gun rule can remain in effect while the lawsuit continues. 

Minnesota criminal charges surge 

In Minnesota, there’s already a state law on the books making it illegal to possess a firearm without a serial number. Historically, it’s a charge that’s rarely been used until recently.

At least 170 state criminal charges were filed last year – that’s more than five times the amount from 2021. 

One such case involved 21-year-old Alfonzo Williams who was found with a ghost gun during a traffic stop in Richfield.

While detained in the back of the squad car, police dashcam video shows Williams mention the ghost gun and that it’s been used before.

"They found the ghost, I'm gonna say I found the bag," Williams said in the video. "My fingerprints all on the [expletive], it’s been shot before."

Williams ultimately pleaded guilty to a felony state charge for possession of a firearm without a serial number.