The Gun Violence Epidemic
Gun violence continues to threaten the health and safety of American households across the country. In 2022 thus far, the United States has already fallen victim to 356 mass shootings. As California Attorney General Rob Bonta stated this past May, “there have been more mass shootings in the nation than days in the year in 2022.” California, along with many other states, has recently enacted numerous gun laws to combat this trend.
Recent data released by state law enforcement suggests that “ghost guns,” in particular, have significantly hindered efforts to reduce gun-related violence. According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), ghost guns recovered at crime scenes nationwide has exponentially increased from 1,758 in 2016 to at least 19,344 in 2021. In California, ghost guns seized by law enforcement officials has increased from 26 in 2015, to 12,388 in 2021. In 2021, 22% of guns confiscated in Oakland, California were ghost guns. One such crime involving a ghost gun included a Sacramento shooting in February of this year, where a father murdered his two children with an AR-15 style ghost gun, even though he had a restraining order against him.
The Problems Posed by Ghost Guns
“Ghost guns” are unserialized, untraceable, and unregistered firearms that are typically sold as nearly fully assembled kits and can be assembled by an individual at home. The kits are, as many gun manufacturers have indicated, 80 percent complete and are thus exempt from federal and state regulations. However, the differences between a ghost gun kit and a fully assembled firearm are trivial. When one compares side-by-side images of these two pieces, it often is difficult to distinguish between them—ghost guns are typically only missing a few drill holes and have a slight amount of extra plastic that must be removed.
Of great concern is gun manufacturers’ lack of controls and failure to conduct any form of background check before shipping these unserialized kits to consumers. This means that nearly anyone, including minors, felons, and other unauthorized gun purchasers under federal law can now purchase these kits online and convert them into fully functional firearms. Tracking down the owner of a ghost gun and where it was manufactured is also a great challenge for law enforcement, given that these guns contain no serial number. As a result, cities have had to expend a great deal of valuable resources to track down and remove ghost guns from the streets to protect Californians’ health and safety.
Holding Gun Manufacturers Responsible
Over the past month, Governor Newsom has signed over 10 gun restriction laws into effect to combat the public safety threats posed by increased acts of gun violence. California’s Firearm Industry Responsibility Act (“FIRA”) went into effect on July 12, 2022. FIRA creates an industry standard for firearm manufacturers by requiring them to take reasonable actions and precautions to refrain from selling firearms to unauthorized purchasers. FIRA applies to both fully assembled firearms and “ghost gun” kits. Firearm industry members must also adhere to California’s unfair competition, deceptive acts or practices, and false advertising laws. Other recent laws include AB No. 1621 and 2571, which set firearm serialization requirements and prohibit firearms from being marketed to minors.
California’s SB No. 1327 was signed by Governor Newsom on July 22, 2022, and is modeled after Texas’s law that allows private citizens to sue anyone who assists with or performs an abortion. The bill is expected to take effect in January 2023 and will allow California residents to sue anyone who illegally distributes illegal semi-automatic weapons, including unserialized ghost gun kits, or sells weapons to individuals under age 21.
If you would like to learn more about California’s new and upcoming gun restriction laws, please visit the following website: https://www.gov.ca.gov/2022/07/21/governor-newsom-signs-new-measures-to-protect-californians-from-gun-violence/
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