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Ninth Circuit urged to block Nevada ghost gun ban

Gun advocates say the Second Amendment gives gun owners the right to make their own guns.

(CN) — A gun rights attorney urged a Ninth Circuit panel in San Francisco on Tuesday to block a Nevada law that bans the manufacture, possession and sale of so-called ghost guns.

In July 2021, U.S. District Judge Miranda Du, a Barack Obama appointee, declined to overturn the ghost gun ban. The law, Assembly Bill 286, was signed by then-Governor Steve Sisolak and led to the present lawsuit.

The law prohibits unfinished gun kits without serial numbers to be sold or possessed. Because ghost guns lack serial numbers, law enforcement has a tougher task in finding perpetrators.

The kits can be purchased in person, online or made by a 3-D printer.

“It’s important to remember who these plaintiffs are and what this case is about,” Raymond DiGuiseppe, attorney for plaintiffs Roger Palmer, Chad Moxley and the Firearms Policy Coalition, told the panel Tuesday.

DiGuiseppe said his clients are “not seeking to evade background checks or law enforcement detection or commit crimes with ghost guns. They are responsible, law-abiding citizens who simply seek to retain the firearms that have been built lawfully under prior law and to be able to continue to self-manufacture those arms for lawful purposes. Instead, under AB 286, they were required to give up those arms and cease any of that activity under threat of criminal sanction.”

U.S. Circuit Judge Michelle Friedland, an Obama appointee, asked DiGuiseppe about the prevalence of ghost guns used by criminals.

“At this point, it doesn’t matter that statistically these guns are often used for criminal activity by criminals? You don’t take that into account?" she asked.

DiGuiseppe explained his argument followed what is written in the 2nd Amendment.

Then the panel heard from the state.

“Plaintiffs here are saying they have an ancillary right because manufacturing is necessary to exercise their 2nd Amendment rights. And so by definition to look at whether something is necessary or not, we need to see if there are alternatives,” said Deputy Solicitor General Kiel Ireland with the Nevada Attorney General's Office

“Because if there are alternatives, then it’s not necessary. Here there’s no dispute that serialized firearms and serialized kits are available in Nevada. And hundreds of thousands are sold each year,” said Ireland.

As the law stands now, those with unserialized guns are breaking the law, but federal regulations allow those gun owners to take them to a gunsmith to get them marked in compliance with the law, Ireland noted.

Ireland wrapped up his argument by telling the judges – Friedland, Chief U.S. Circuit Judge Mary Murguia, another Obama appointee, and U.S. Circuit Judge Mark Bennett, a Donald Trump appointee, that only criminals prosper with unserialized guns.

“The only conceivable advantages of unregistered, unserialized and untraceable firearms is that they’re easier for persons to obtain and they make it easier to get away with criminal activity,” said Ireland.

Eleven states have laws regulating ghost guns, and some of those laws ban their possession. Under federal rules, commercial manufacturers are required to place serial numbers on the ghost guns.

Sellers need to be licensed and are required to run a background check on the purchaser of the gun kits.

Ghost guns have surged in popularity. In the U.S., crimes where perpetrators used ghost guns has risen more than 1,000% since 2017, according to the Department of Justice.  

But gun advocates say they are backed up by the Constitution and if criminals use these guns unlawfully, it shouldn’t be a reason to take away the rights of all gunowners.

“The fundamental liberty at stake here is the right to self-manufacture firearms. That’s really the core of the issue here,” said William Sack, director of legal operations at the Firearms Policy Coalition.

“Throughout the tradition of the United States, there’s been a longstanding tradition of the self-manufacture of firearms for personal use. Our position is that the 2nd Amendment in fact acknowledges and protects the right to self-manufacture. So that’s the underlying liberty interest at stake here,” said Sack.

A call for comment from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department was not returned by deadline.

Categories / Appeals, Civil Rights, Law

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