The Supreme Court agreed on Monday to take up a Biden administration appeal over the regulation of difficult-to-trace ghost guns that had been struck down by lower courts.

Ghost guns, firearms without serial numbers that are usually privately made, have become more common on American city streets, and especially so in Baltimore. From June 2021 to the end of 2023, ghost guns were the most commonly recovered make of firearm, more so than popular general brands like Glock, according to a review of police data.

President Joe Biden’s administration issued a regulation in 2022 that changed the definition of a firearm under federal law to include the parts of unfinished weapons, which would require them to be licensed and serialized so authorities with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives could more easily track their provenance. That requirement applies regardless of how the firearm was made, meaning it includes ghost guns made from individual parts or kits or by 3D printers. The rule does not prohibit people from buying a kit or any type of firearm, but requires the parts they purchase have serial numbers.

The Justice Department said in court filings that local law enforcement agencies seized more than 19,000 ghost guns at crime scenes in 2021, a more than tenfold increase in just five years. In Baltimore, more than 1,200 ghost guns have been seized from June 2021 to present, police data shows.

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U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor, in Fort Worth, Texas, struck down the rule last year, concluding that it exceeded the ATF’s authority. O’Connor wrote that the definition of a firearm in federal law does not cover all the parts of a gun, and that Congress would need to change the law.

A panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals made up of three appointees of then-President Donald Trump largely upheld O’Connor’s ruling. The Supreme Court allowed the regulation to remain in effect while the lawsuit continues. Arguments won’t take place before the fall.

Maryland banned the sale of firearms without a serial number in 2022. In the calendar year before Maryland’s ban took effect, the Baltimore Police Department recovered 402 ghost guns. Since the ban took effect in June 2022 to the end of 2023, Baltimore Police recovered 596 ghost guns. Ghost guns made their first appearances on Baltimore streets years ago, but were rarities. Police recovered fewer than 10 in 2018.

In addition to being untraceable, the ghost guns police recover tend to have larger-capacity magazines compared to their serialized counterparts. Maryland banned the sale of magazines that hold more than 10 bullets in 2013, but the average ghost gun recovered in Baltimore has a capacity of 16 rounds, according to a Baltimore Banner review of police records.

Mayor Brandon Scott directed the city’s law department to sue Polymer80, the leading manufacturer of ghost gun kits and parts in the United States. In February, Scott announced a settlement with the company that effectively ended its business in Maryland and placed restrictions on who it could sell to in neighboring states.

The Associated Press contributed reporting for this article.

Lee O. Sanderlin is an Enterprise Reporter for The Baltimore Banner. Before joining The Banner, he worked at The Baltimore Sun as a reporter covering a wide array of topics, including stories about abusive politicians, sexual abuse, gun violence and legislative issues.

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