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Nevada’s ‘ghost gun’ ban ruled constitutional by top court

Updated April 19, 2024 - 4:59 pm

The Supreme Court of Nevada unanimously ruled Thursday that a state ban on ghost guns is constitutional, overturning a lower court’s decision that the state statutes against the firearms were unconstitutionally vague.

Ghost guns are unregistered firearms made by individuals using a 3-D printer or parts from a kit.

The decision overturned a lower court ruling that sided with Polymer80 Inc., a Nevada-based maker of gun products that sued over the definition of a “unfinished frame or receiver” in the statutes regulating ghost guns passed by the Legislature and signed by then-Gov. Steve Sisolak.

A District Court judge in Lyon County had agreed with Polymer80 that Nevada’s ghost gun laws were not explicit enough in explaining to the public when parts made to construct a ghost gun become an unfinished frame or receiver.

But the Supreme Court said the wording that lawmakers approved and Sisolak signed was “readily” comprehensible through ordinary usage and common understanding.

“The statutes here only regulate conduct involving an object that is intended to ultimately become a firearm,” Chief Justice Lydia Stiglich wrote in the unanimous decision. “They prohibit acts involving such not-yet-complete firearms that have not been imprinted with a serial number. ”

Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford, who filed the appeal on the state’s behalf in December 2021, said the ruling “is a win for public safety and creates sensible, practical measures to protect Nevadans from violent crime.”

Other Nevada lawmakers, and gun control advocates lauded Thursday’s ruling.

“This ruling will help prevent violent crime and close loopholes that make it harder for law enforcement to protect our communities,” wrote U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto in a statement to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “I’ll keep working in the Senate on commonsense reforms that keep Nevadans safe while respecting the rights of responsible gun owners.”

In her own statement to the Review-Journal, Sen. Jacky Rosen called ghost guns “a growing problem and increasingly being used to commit crimes because they bypass gun safety regulations.”

“I’m glad to see Nevada’s state law upheld to help keep communities safe from dangerous criminals using these untraceable weapons,” she wrote. I’ll continue working in the U.S. Senate to support commonsense legislation that respects Nevadans’ rights while keeping them safe from senseless acts of gun violence.”

On social media, U.S. Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., declared the ruling as “good news for Nevada.”

“Untraceable ghost guns let bad actors circumvent background checks,” Titus wrote. “In Congress, I support common sense gun safety legislation that would make it harder to acquire ghost guns.”

Inquiries Friday seeking comment from Gov. Joe Lombardo, the Clark County District Attorney’s office and the Metropolitan Police Department went unanswered.

Meanwhile, Everytown Law and Moms Demand Action released joint statements.

“A clear and growing threat to public safety nationwide, ghost guns have been exacerbating our nation’s existing gun violence epidemic and undermining crucial gun safety laws,” said Eric Tirschwell, executive director of Everytown Law, the litigation arm of Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund.

“Communities across Nevada and across the country are undoubtedly safer tonight thanks to this ruling upholding the state’s ghost gun ban. We applaud the Justices for choosing to end the proliferation of these deadly weapons,” Tirschwell concluded.

Added Jamie Bunnell with the Nevada chapter of Moms Demand Action: “For far too long ghost guns have terrorized our communities with little to no regulation. This decision reaffirms Nevada’s right to implement common-sense gun safety policies, and we must continue working to prevent senseless acts of gun violence.”

Contact Jeff Burbank at jburbank@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0382. Follow him @JeffBurbank2 on X.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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