RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — “With gun violence on the rise, we must do everything in our power to keep our communities safe,” North Carolina’s Attorney General, Josh Stein said on Monday.

These words came after Stein filed an amicus brief on July 8, alongside 18 states and Washington, D.C., in support of a new federal rule that aims to crack down on a particular type of weapon—ghost guns.

View the full amicus brief

The term “ghost gun” refers to firearms without serial numbers that are purchased without background checks. Guns like these are often made at home from purchased weapon parts kits or partially complete frames and receivers.

The rule would require the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to regulate these ghost guns under federal gun control laws.

David Hamilton
FILE – In this Aug. 29, 2017, file photo, an ATF agent poses with homemade rifles, or “ghost guns,” at an ATF field office in Glendale, Calif. California’s attorney general is suing the Trump administration in an effort to crack down on so-called “ghost guns” that can be built from parts with little ability to track or regulate the owner. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

In 2021, law enforcement across the country recovered and reported about 20,000 suspected ghost guns in criminal investigations, the attorney general’s office said in a statement. Without a federal rule in place, these dangerous weapons have continued to “proliferate throughout the states,” the release said.

This new federal rule would create a requirement of passing a background check to purchase such kits. The rule would also allow law enforcement officers to trace any self-made guns that are later used in a crime. It would also limit the ability of gun traffickers to distribute such weapons.

This action, Stein said, is “critical and long overdue.”

Part of this action, he said, “includes closing this loophole that gives people who are a threat to public safety, such as violent felons and domestic abusers, the ability to get untraceable guns without a background check.”

The rule does not prevent hobbyists from building their own guns, but it would require ghost gun sellers to abide by the same rules as any other gun seller. Also worth noting, people who already own a “ghost gun” are able to keep them, so long as they are not legally prohibited from owning a firearm.

North Carolina is signed onto the brief filed along with:

  • Washington, D.C.
  • New Jersey
  • Pennsylvania
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • New York
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin

As for next steps of the rule, Attorney General Stein’s office said in a statement that the final rule from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) will “help clarify critical definitions in the Gun Control Act and close a dangerous loophole that allowed people to evade existing gun laws and get ghost guns.”

The full amicus brief is available to view online via the North Carolina Department of Justice.