Firearms

Attorney General Bonta Launches Office of Gun Violence Prevention

September 21, 2022
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

Office to provide proactive approach through strategic programs and partnerships with stakeholders statewide 

Releases new webpage to provide the public with information and resources to improve public safely

SAN FRANCISCO – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today announced the launch of the California Department of Justice’s (DOJ) first-in-the-nation Office of Gun Violence Prevention, a unit dedicated to developing strategies and working with stakeholders statewide to address the gun violence epidemic. This innovative new office — the first Office of Gun Violence Prevention under the leadership of a state attorney general — will provide centralized support from the DOJ for partners to implement strategic and innovative programs to reduce gun violence. California has long been a national leader in effectively preventing gun violence — with one of the lowest rates of gun deaths in the country. Despite efforts at the state level, in 2020, firearms were the leading cause of death for children in the United States. Gun violence is a true public health crisis that requires immediate and proactive attention. Today, Attorney General Bonta outlined the new office, announced a nationwide search for its first director, and launched a new webpage to provide the public with information about the office and resources for learning about California’s work and strategies to further reduce gun violence.

“This moment of crisis demands more than thoughts and prayers — we need action now,” said Attorney General Rob Bonta. “That is why as California Attorney General, I am doubling down on California’s gun safety efforts: I am defending our commonsense gun safety laws in court and cracking down on the surge of untraceable ghost guns. I am proud to lead a team of special agents that remove firearms from the hands of dangerous individuals. And today, I am establishing the Office of Gun Violence Prevention to advance a strong, statewide, public health-focused effort as we continue working together to put an end to this crisis once and for all.”

“Gun violence is a national crisis, a state crisis, a local crisis, and a public health crisis," said Assemblymember Mia Bonta. "This year, gun violence has hit close to home with mass shootings blocks away from the State Capitol, shootings in close proximity to my district office, and shootings that have personally impacted members of my staff. Each gun violence tragedy sits heavy in my heart. I mourn with the families of the victims and wonder, what it will take to finally end this gun violence epidemic. The establishment of the Office of Gun Violence Prevention is a testament to the Attorney General also recognizing the need to elevate this matter statewide to identify comprehensive and effective solutions. I look forward to working with this office on this matter and I will continue to push for gun violence to be recognized as a public health crisis to develop a health-based approach to ensure that our communities have the resources available to uplift them from the root causes of gun violence.”

"In 2020, 3,449 Californians died from gun violence. While we have some of the strongest gun laws in the country, this number is unacceptable, and there remains much work that needs to be done to save lives," said Laura Cutilletta, Giffords Law Center, Managing Director. "California requires more coordinated expert leadership and a statewide resource dedicated to breaking down silos across different agencies and borders, cutting through red tape, and helping communities implement new resources to stop gun violence. Throughout his time in office, Attorney General Bonta has been a steadfast partner of Giffords Law Center and a champion for gun safety. We applaud Attorney General Bonta for establishing the Office of Gun Violence Prevention and we look forward to working closely with the office to explore the public health solutions to our gun violence epidemic that we know work to save lives." 

“With the ongoing homicides here in San Francisco, Oakland, and throughout the state, we applaud Attorney General Bonta for responding to this situation with the urgency it deserves,” said Mattie Scott, Founder, Healing 4 Our Families & Our Nation; President, Brady United Against Gun Violence California, and San Francisco Mothers in Charge Chapter Leader. “Attorney General Bonta, you heard our cries, saw our pain, and took action to provide critical services needed to combat this epidemic. Thank you for opening the Office of Gun Violence Prevention to help us provide a space for victims and survivors of senseless gun violence. I wish we had this resource 25 years ago before my youngest son George C. Scott was shot and killed with a semi-automatic assault weapon at the age of 24. But I know this new Office of Gun Violence Prevention will save lives. As I always say, this is about all of us or none of us; we must come together to stop the killing and start the healing.”

“Gun violence is a public health crisis in California, and there's more we can do to save lives,” said Clare Senchyna, a volunteer with the California chapter of Moms Demand Action and a member of the Everytown Survivor Network. “The launch of the Office of Gun Violence Prevention is an important step forward for our state, and we are proud to stand alongside Attorney General Bonta as he works to make California a safer place to live.”

“It takes the hood to save the hood,” said Rudy Corpuz Jr., Founder and Executive Director of United Playaz.

The Office of Gun Violence Prevention’s (OGVP) mission is to reduce and prevent gun violence, firearm injury, and related trauma. OGVP will support DOJ’s ongoing gun violence reduction efforts led by the Bureau of Firearms and DOJ's litigation sections — including the Department’s seizure of firearms from dangerous individuals using the Armed and Prohibited Persons System (APPS), prosecution of firearms trafficking cases, and defense of California’s commonsense gun laws. OGVP will examine a broad range of factors — from firearm availability to effective resources for crisis prevention — to reduce the harm caused by firearms and make Californians healthier and safer. OGVP aims to reduce gun violence by promoting research and data collection, increasing awareness about effective legal and policy strategies, and collaborating with federal, state, and local partners.

Attorney General Bonta also announced a nationwide search is underway to recruit a Director for the Office of Gun Violence Prevention. Information about the position may be found here.

Gun violence remains a growing threat to public safety throughout the nation. On average, there are over 110 gun deaths each day and nearly 41,000 each year in the U.S. Guns are the leading cause of death among children and adolescents; with U.S. children being more likely to die from gun violence than in any other comparable country.

California continues its efforts to advance laws and policies that save lives and prevent gun deaths. In 2021, California saw a 37% lower gun death rate than the national average. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, California’s gun death rate was the 44th lowest in the nation, with 8.5 gun deaths per 100,000 people — compared to 13.7 deaths per 100,000 nationally, 28.6 in Mississippi, 20.7 in Oklahoma, and 14.2 in Texas. California’s gun death rate for children is also lower than other states, and is 58% lower than the national average. 

Attorney General Bonta stands with partners throughout the state to continue tackling the issue of gun violence strategically and aggressively by:

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Attorney General Bonta Continues Defense of ATF Rule to Protect the Public from Ghost Guns

August 31, 2022
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

OAKLAND — California Attorney General Rob Bonta today joined a coalition of 20 attorneys general in defense of a rule by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) to protect the public from dangerous and untraceable ghost guns. The coalition filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of ATF’s opposition to a motion for a preliminary injunction in VanDerStok v. Garland, a case currently pending in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas. The lawsuit, filed by individual gun owners and pro-gun groups, seeks to block ATF’s commonsense rule that would help law enforcement protect communities from ghost guns, or illegal firearms that lack a serial number. The unserialized weapons allow unlicensed manufacturers and illegal possessors to bypass state laws, including California's requirements on firearm ownership recording and background checks, rendering them largely untraceable by law enforcement. This is the third time Attorney General Bonta has defended the ATF’s rule, as he joined similar briefs for lawsuits pending in the U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota and another in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas.

“There have been more mass shootings in our nation than days in the year in 2022,” said Attorney General Bonta. “In California, we know our protective measures work, but we need to see such action nationwide. Every year, we see more unserialized firearms and parts entering our state from states with fewer and weaker gun protections, leaving our law enforcement in the dark and our communities in danger. It is a devastating fact that in our nation, children and teens are more likely to die by gun than any illness or accident. We cannot accept this as normal when we know that there are effective strategies to save our kids. I will stand up for ATF’s commonsense rule at every turn to help protect the public safety of Californians.”

The rule helps ensure that buyers in any state pass background checks before purchasing easily assembled weapon-part kits used to build ghost guns or partially complete firearm frames or receivers, and that law enforcement officers can trace self-made guns that are later used in a crime. It also limits gun traffickers’ ability to distribute these dangerous weapons into California. Law enforcement agencies throughout California have expressed their concern for the growing trend of unregistered and untraceable ghost guns. The number of illegal ghost guns seized by law enforcement agencies throughout California has continued to rise drastically year after year. In 2015, California law enforcement agencies seized a total of 26 ghost guns. By 2021, that number has increased to 12,388. 

Untraceable ghost guns have been used in multiple tragedies in California. In March 2022, a shooter who was banned from possessing guns killed his three children, a chaperone, and himself using a ghost gun at a church in Sacramento. In 2019, two Saugus High School students were killed and three were injured by a 16-year-old student using a ghost gun assembled from a kit. In November 2017, five people were killed and eight injured at multiple locations, including an elementary school, in Rancho Tehama Reserve. The shooter used homemade ghost guns and unregistered firearms. In June 2013, a shooter killed five people on and around the Santa Monica College campus using an AR-15-style ghost gun rifle.

Absent federal enforcement, these dangerous weapons have continued to proliferate, including in states that have tried to regulate ghost guns themselves, such as California. The ATF rule helps curb this problem by serving as a vital backstop to existing state efforts to stem the flow of ghost guns. 

The rule regulates ghost guns by clarifying critical definitions in the Gun Control Act. Specifically, the rule makes it clear that weapon parts kits and partially complete frames or receivers — the key building blocks for ghost guns — are “firearms” under the Act if they can be readily converted to function as such or are sold with a compatible jig or template. In making this sensible clarification, the rule helps ensure that these kits and partially complete frames or receivers are subject to the same serialization and background check requirements as conventionally manufactured guns. This helps close a dangerous loophole in firearms regulation that enabled people to evade existing gun laws and get their hands on these dangerous weapons.

The brief filed today argues that the rule falls within the Gun Control Act and was designed to fill in the gaps in state-by-state enforcement. The coalition further asserts that the rule complements state laws to regulate weapon parts kits and partially completed receivers.

California continues its efforts to advance laws and policies that save lives and prevent gun deaths. In 2021, California saw a 37% lower gun death rate than the national average. According to the CDC, California’s gun death rate was the 44th lowest in the nation, with 8.5 gun deaths per 100,000 people – compared to 13.7 deaths per 100,000 nationally, 28.6 in Mississippi, 20.7 in Oklahoma, and 14.2 in Texas. California’s gun death rate for children is also lower than other states, and is 58% lower than the national average.

Attorney General Bonta stands with partners to continue preventing gun violence strategically and aggressively by:

Attorney General Bonta joins the attorneys general of District of Columbia, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington, and Wisconsin.

A copy of the brief can be found here.

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Attorney General Bonta Urges Law Enforcement Statewide to Utilize Red Flag Laws, Apply for Gun Violence Prevention Grants

August 25, 2022
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

Highlights success of gun violence prevention strategies in San Diego  

SAN DIEGO — California Attorney General Rob Bonta today visited San Diego to promote strategies for law enforcement agencies and local governments to help prevent gun violence and urged for further action and collaboration statewide. Attorney General Bonta highlighted the successful work of the City of San Diego to educate both community and law enforcement partners about the use of Gun Violence Restraining Orders and Domestic Violence Restraining Orders, tools which help ensure that people who are a danger to themselves or others do not have access to a firearm. In 2021, over 31% or 435 of the 1,384 GVROs issued statewide were issued in San Diego County. Additionally, Attorney General Bonta urged California sheriff’s departments to take advantage of the Gun Violence Reduction Program, a grant opportunity which funds activities by sheriff’s departments to seize weapons and ammunition from individuals listed as prohibited in the Armed and Prohibited Persons System (APPS). The second round of funding for sheriff’s departments is now available; grant applications are due to the Department of Justice by September 2, 2022

“Whether by helping assist our community members to access Gun Violence Restraining Orders or seizing guns from those deemed too dangerous to possess them, our local law enforcement plays a key role in advancing statewide strategies to reduce gun violence,” said Attorney General Bonta. “In California, we’ve implemented strategies that work to prevent gun-related deaths. California’s rate of gun deaths remains one of the lowest in the nation and in communities such as San Diego, which properly utilize red flag laws, the data is even more promising. We know we have strategies that work to save lives, because we are seeing them at work right here in San Diego — but gun violence is a challenge that none of us can address alone. The California Department of Justice will continue collaborating with our law enforcement partners throughout the state to prevent tragic deaths due to gun violence.”

“Our office is committed to helping law enforcement agencies save lives through the use of Gun Violence Restraining Orders. We thank Attorney General Bonta and the state of California for supporting our efforts, most recently with a $1 million grant,” said San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott. “The Department of Justice has also created its California Law Corps program and asked our Gun Violence Response Unit to train eight California cities on how to create effective GVRO programs. The more such units we have in California the better we can respond before another tragedy occurs.” 

Gun Violence Restraining Orders (GVROs) and Domestic Violence Restraining Orders (DVROs)

Californians can help prevent gun violence and protect those who are no longer able to responsibly possess firearms. Attorney General Bonta encourages law enforcement partners to assist their communities in accessing these resources. Law enforcement agencies and local governments can provide training and assistance to community members to help them better understand red flag laws, a model demonstrated with positive results by partners in San Diego.

In December 2017, in collaboration with the San Diego Police Department and the Superior Court, City Attorney Mara W. Elliott established the state’s first comprehensive GVRO program. Since the inception of the groundbreaking program, more than 1,500 firearms have been confiscated through GVROs. Removing these firearms is believed to have prevented multiple violent incidents, including mass shootings. For example, in June, City Attorney Elliott wrote in the San Diego Community Newspaper about a GVRO used to remove firearms from a man who posted a photo of himself on social media holding an AR-15 rifle with the message, “RIP” to his former high school and stating that he hoped to die.

Anyone who believes a person to be a danger to themselves or others should contact local law enforcement. Family members, employers, coworkers, and school employees can also petition the court directly for a Gun Violence Restraining Order (GVRO) to prohibit a person from possessing firearms whom they believe poses a serious threat. 

Individuals who are in fear of or experiencing abuse by someone with whom they are in a close relationship – such as a current or former spouse, partner, or parent – can request a Domestic Violence Restraining Order (DVRO).

Petitioners can request a temporary GVRO or DVRO from the civil court in their county of residence. A judge will consider the facts presented in the petitioner’s formal, written application and/or at a hearing. Using the information presented, the judge will assess whether the subject is presently at risk of harming anyone. Under California law, orders are granted or denied the same day the petition is submitted to the court. If granted, the subject must relinquish their firearms within 24 to 48 hours, and for the duration of the order. Orders can be extended by requesting an Order after Hearing. These orders can be issued from one to five years for GVROs, and can be non-expiring for a DVRO. 

The application, as well as more information on GVROs and DVROs, can be found here.

Victims of domestic violence who are in immediate danger should call 911. For additional information and assistance call:

  • The 24-hour National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (1-800-799-7233)
  • The Victims of Crime Resource Center: 1-800-VICTIMS (1-800-842-8467)

California Sheriff’s Departments are Invited to Apply for Gun Violence Prevention Grants

The California Department of Justice's (DOJ) Gun Violence Reduction Program (GVRP) grants provide funding to county sheriff’s departments to support their activities related to seizing weapons and ammunition from individuals who had previously legally purchased a firearm and have since become prohibited in APPS. Armed and prohibited individuals are a subset of APPS representing less than one percent of the APPS database. As of January 1, 2022, there were nearly 3.2 million known firearm owners in APPS, of which 24,509 are prohibited from owning firearms. DOJ encourages applicants to consider innovative strategies to reduce the amount of armed and prohibited subjects in their jurisdictions.

A total of $10 million in GVRP funding was provided by the California Budget Act of 2021, of which $5 million was awarded in 2022, with the remaining $5 million currently available for award by January 1, 2023. DOJ will award grants in amounts between $250,000 and $1 million per applicant, per year.

The Attorney General encourages all interested county sheriff's departments to submit their proposals by September 2, 2022. The Request for Proposal package, which contains all of the information and forms agencies need to prepare and submit, is available at www.oag.ca.gov/gvrp.   

California’s Life-Saving Gun Violence Prevention Strategies

California continues its efforts to advance laws and policies that save lives and prevent gun deaths. In 2021, California saw a 37% lower gun death rate than the national average. According to the CDC, California’s gun death rate was the 44th lowest in the nation, with 8.5 gun deaths per 100,000 people – compared to 13.7 deaths per 100,000 nationally, 28.6 in Mississippi, 20.7 in Oklahoma, and 14.2 in Texas. California’s gun death rate for children is also lower than other states, and is 58% lower than the national average.

Attorney General Bonta stands with partners to continue preventing gun violence strategically and aggressively by:

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Attorney General Bonta Seizes 54 Guns and Thousands of Rounds of Ammunition from Prohibited Individual

August 18, 2022
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

Advises Californians on steps to protect themselves and others from those no longer able to responsibly possess weapons  

RIVERSIDE — California Attorney General Rob Bonta today announced the seizure of dozens of guns, including assault weapons, and thousands of rounds of ammunition from two individuals in Riverside County, one of whom was prohibited from possessing firearms. The prohibited individual is listed as prohibited in the Armed and Prohibited Persons System (APPS) due to a mental health-based prohibition. As required by the law, prohibited individuals must relinquish any firearms, magazines, and ammunition in their possession.  California Department of Justice agents initially went to the home of the individuals — both of whom are seniors — to allow the prohibited person to turn over his weapons, magazines, and ammunition voluntarily. However, the prohibited person and his spouse refused entry and were uncooperative. As a result, DOJ and Menifee Police Department executed a search warrant to recover the weapons. Upon entry, they found 54 guns from the seniors’ home — including two AR-15 style assault rifles, two UZI assault weapons, and 35 handguns — as well as 157 magazines and 2,200 rounds of ammunition. Three of these weapons were loaded, located in plain sight, and were not locked in a safe that would be inaccessible to the prohibited person. (Pictures can be found here: image 1, image 2, image 3, Image 4)

“Keeping our communities safe and removing firearms from individuals found too dangerous to possess them is a top priority for my office,” said Attorney General Bonta. “These individuals may pose an increased risk to themselves and others — especially if they have access to a dangerous firearm. I implore Californians to take the necessary steps to protect themselves and others to ensure those who can no longer responsibly possess a firearm do not have access to one. Please do not feel guilty or hesitant to reach out to local law enforcement for assistance should you need it.” 

Nearly 33% of people who die from firearm injuries in the U.S. are over 50 — about 84% of firearm deaths among older adults are suicides, with another 14% being homicides, including domestic violence. Access to firearms can pose an increased danger to older persons with cognitive impairment such as dementia, as well as others around them, including family members and caregivers. About one in three individuals with dementia exhibit combative behavior, and by 2050 the number of individuals with dementia living in homes with guns is estimated to increase to 12 million

Attorney General Bonta reminds Californians of steps they can take to prevent gun violence and protect those who are no longer able to responsibly possess firearms. Anyone who believes a person to be a danger to themselves or others should contact local law enforcement. Family members, employers, coworkers, and school employees can also petition the court directly for a Gun Violence Restraining Order (GVRO) to prohibit a person from possessing firearms who they believe poses a serious threat.  

Individuals who are in fear of or experiencing abuse by someone with whom they are in a close relationship – such as a current or former spouse, partner, or parent – can request a Domestic Violence Restraining Order (DVRO).

Petitioners can request a temporary GVRO or DVRO from the civil court in their county of residence. A judge will consider the facts presented in the petitioner’s formal, written application and/or at a hearing. Using the information presented, the judge will assess whether the subject is presently at risk of harming anyone. Under California law, orders are granted or denied the same day the petition is submitted to the court. If granted, the subject must relinquish their firearms within 24-48 hours, and for the duration of the order. Orders can be extended by requesting an Order after Hearing. These orders can be issued from one to five years for GVROs, and can be non-expiring for a DVRO.

The application, as well as more information on GVROs and DVROs, can be found here.

Victims of domestic violence who are in immediate danger should call 911. For additional information and assistance call:

  • The 24-hour National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (1-800-799-7233)
  • The Victims of Crime Resource Center: 1-800-VICTIMS (1-800-842-8467)

California continues its efforts to advance laws and policies that save lives and prevent gun deaths. In 2021, California saw a 37% lower gun death rate than the national average. According to the CDC, California’s gun death rate was the 44th lowest in the nation, with 8.5 gun deaths per 100,000 people – compared to 13.7 deaths per 100,000 nationally, 28.6 in Mississippi, 20.7 in Oklahoma, and 14.2 in Texas. California’s gun death rate for children is also lower than other states, and is 58% lower than the national average.

Attorney General Bonta stands with partners to continue preventing gun violence strategically and aggressively by:

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Attorney General Bonta Issues Reminder that Carry License Requirements for Firearms Remain in Effect

August 17, 2022
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

Individuals who illegally carry a gun face criminal penalties 

SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today issued a legal alert reminding California’s district attorneys, law enforcement, and the legal community that license requirements to carry firearms in public remain constitutional and in effect in California, and are enforceable under the law. In June, the Supreme Court issued its decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen that New York’s equivalent to California’s “good cause” requirement to obtain a public carry license was unconstitutional and unenforceable. However, the Court also stated that it is constitutional for states to require a license to carry a firearm in public. Aside from the good cause requirement, all other requirements to obtain a carry license remain constitutional and enforceable.

“California is committed to safeguarding our citizens, our children, and our future through commonsense gun laws,” said Attorney General Rob Bonta. “Carrying a gun in public without a valid license is against the law. We will take any and all legal action necessary to protect Californians from the threat of gun violence — including prosecuting those who violate our laws governing where people may carry firearms in public.”

It is generally against the law to carry a firearm in public without a license. Individuals attempting to carry a weapon without first obtaining a license face criminal penalties. The Supreme Court’s decision in Bruen does not provide a basis for dismissing charges against individuals who have been prosecuted for illegally carrying weapons in public. The legal alert issued today reminds law enforcement and district attorneys that charges may be filed should an individual violate California’s laws governing where people may carry firearms in public.

Individuals may obtain a license through a sheriff or chief of police after: a successful background check, the completion of a firearms safety course, and proof of residency, employment, or business in the county or city within the county, and a showing that they are of “good moral character.” These requirements were adopted with the unique needs of Californians in mind, and remain constitutional under Bruen.

Gun violence remains a growing threat to public safety throughout the nation. On average, there are over 110 gun deaths each day and nearly 41,000 each year in the U.S. Guns are the leading cause of death among children and adolescents; with U.S. children being more likely to die from gun violence than in any other comparable country.

California continues its efforts to advance laws and policies that save lives and prevent gun deaths. In 2021, California saw a 37% lower gun death rate than the national average. According to the CDC, California’s gun death rate was the 44th lowest in the nation, with 8.5 gun deaths per 100,000 people – compared to 13.7 deaths per 100,000 nationally, 28.6 in Mississippi, 20.7 in Oklahoma, and 14.2 in Texas. California’s gun death rate for children is also lower than other states, and is 58% lower than the national average.

Attorney General Bonta stands with partners throughout the state to continue preventing gun violence strategically and aggressively by:

 

The legal alert can be found here.

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Attorney General Bonta Defends ATF Rule to Protect the Public from Untraceable Ghost Guns

August 16, 2022
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

OAKLAND — California Attorney General Rob Bonta today joined a coalition of 20 attorneys general in defense of a rule by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) to protect the public from dangerous and untraceable ghost guns. The coalition filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of ATF’s opposition to a motion for a preliminary injunction in Morehouse Enterprises, LLC v. ATF. The lawsuit, filed by a firearms dealer, seeks to block ATF’s commonsense rule that would help law enforcement protect communities from ghost guns, or illegal firearms that lack a serial number. The unserialized weapons allow unlicensed manufacturers and illegal possessors to bypass state laws, including California's requirements on firearm ownership recording and background checks, rendering them largely untraceable by law enforcement. 

“When firearms that do not meet California safety standards are built at home by individuals who have not passed a background check and have not had their guns properly serialized, it leaves law enforcement in the dark and hurts public safety,” said Attorney General Bonta. “There have been more mass shootings in the nation than days in the year in 2022. In California, we know our protective measures work, but we need to see such action nationwide. I am in support of stronger federal efforts to curb the gun violence sweeping our country, which is killing thousands of Americans, including children. We refuse to accept that gun deaths are somehow normal when we know that there are effective strategies to stop them. Our law enforcement partners in California and across the country need support and tools to help seize these dangerous firearms — it is disheartening to see efforts such as this lawsuit seeking to make their jobs harder. My office will continue to use every legal tool available to end this gun violence epidemic and to keep Californians safe.”

The rule helps ensure that buyers in any state pass background checks before purchasing easily assembled weapon-part kits used to build ghost guns or partially complete firearm frames or receivers, and that law enforcement officers can trace self-made guns that are later used in a crime. It also limits gun traffickers’ ability to distribute these dangerous weapons into California. Law enforcement agencies throughout California have expressed their concern for the growing trend of unregistered and untraceable ghost guns. The number of illegal ghost guns seized by law enforcement agencies throughout California has continued to rise drastically year after year. In 2015, California law enforcement agencies seized a total of 26 ghost guns. By 2021, that number has increased to 12,388. 

Untraceable ghost guns have been used in multiple tragedies in California. In March 2022, a shooter who was banned from possessing guns killed his three children, a chaperone, and himself using a ghost gun at a church in Sacramento. In 2019, two Saugus High School students were killed and three were injured by a 16-year-old student using a ghost gun assembled from a kit. In November 2017, five people were killed and eight injured at multiple locations, including an elementary school, in Rancho Tehama Reserve. The shooter used homemade ghost guns and unregistered firearms. In June 2013, a shooter killed five people on and around the Santa Monica College campus using an AR-15-style ghost gun rifle.

Absent federal enforcement, these dangerous weapons have continued to proliferate, including in states that have tried to regulate ghost guns themselves, such as California. The ATF rule helps curb this problem by serving as a vital backstop to existing state efforts to stem the flow of ghost guns. 

The rule regulates ghost guns by clarifying critical definitions in the Gun Control Act. Specifically, the rule makes it clear that weapon parts kits and partially complete frames or receivers — the key building blocks for ghost guns — are “firearms” under the Act if they can be readily converted to function as such or are sold with a compatible jig or template. In making this sensible clarification, the rule helps ensure that these kits and partially complete frames or receivers are subject to the same serialization and background check requirements as conventionally manufactured guns. This helps close a dangerous loophole in firearms regulation that enabled people to evade existing gun laws and get their hands on these dangerous weapons.
 
The brief filed today argues that the rule falls within the Gun Control Act and was designed to fill in the gaps in state-by-state enforcement. The coalition further asserts that the rule complements state laws to regulate weapon parts kits and partially completed receivers.

California continues its efforts to advance laws and policies that save lives and prevent gun deaths. In 2021, California saw a 37% lower gun death rate than the national average. According to the CDC, California’s gun death rate was the 44th lowest in the nation, with 8.5 gun deaths per 100,000 people – compared to 13.7 deaths per 100,000 nationally, 28.6 in Mississippi, 20.7 in Oklahoma, and 14.2 in Texas. California’s gun death rate for children is also lower than other states, and is 58% lower than the national average.

Attorney General Bonta stands with partners to continue preventing gun violence strategically and aggressively by:

Attorney General Bonta joins the attorneys general of the District of Columbia, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington, and Wisconsin in filing this amicus brief, which can be viewed here.

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Attorney General Bonta Welcomes Biden Administration Rule to Protect the Public from Untraceable Ghost Guns

April 11, 2022
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

New rule brings oversight of ghost gun parts up to speed with current California law

OAKLAND — California Attorney General Rob Bonta issued the following statement in response to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) announcement of a new rule clarifying the agency’s definition of what qualifies as a firearm and improving its efforts to address the proliferation of ghost guns:

“Do-it-yourself ghost gun kits allow anyone with a credit card and an internet connection to purchase and build a fully operable, untraceable weapon,” said Attorney General Bonta. “Without effective oversight, the availability of ghost guns, unfinished frames, and receivers allows dangerous individuals to access firearms under the radar of law enforcement. They are a clear and present danger to public safety. Here in California, we have been at the forefront of the fight against ghost guns and we are pleased to see this new rule, which will bring federal law up to speed. Together, we can better monitor ghost guns and increase public safety in California and across our nation.”

ATF’s new rule reverses a prior determination that so-called “80 percent” frames and receivers, which are commonly used to assemble untraceable ghost guns, are not firearms under the Gun Control Act (GCA). In 2019, the California Department of Justice and Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence led a coalition in filing a lawsuit demanding the ATF change its interpretation of the GCA and classify these frames and receivers as firearms subject to federal firearm statutes and regulations. In August 2021, after the Biden Administration issued its proposed rule to reverse the prior determination, Attorney General Bonta filed a comment letter applauding the decision

Attorney General Bonta is committed to upholding California’s commonsense gun safety laws and holding gun manufacturers who violate the law accountable. In October 2021, Attorney General Bonta announced a lawsuit against ghost gun kit manufacturer and retailers Blackhawk Manufacturing Group, Inc. (Blackhawk); MDX Corporation (MDX), and GS Performance, LLC (Glockstore) for using false and deceptive advertising practices by leading buyers to believe that frames and receivers purchased in their gun kits are legal, without explaining the legal obligations they will face under the Assembly of Firearms Law if they assemble the firearm. In February 2022, Attorney General Bonta sent a cease-and-desist letter to Juggernaut Tactical warning the company that its “Featureless Series” of rifles qualify as assault weapons, and are therefore unlawful to possess, manufacture, distribute, transport, import, keep for sale, offer for sale, or display for sale under California law.

California Department of Justice Bureau of Firearms’ (BOF) Special Agents and staff work every day to improve public safety by taking actions to prevent gun violence. In January, BOF Special Agents worked with local and federal law enforcement to engage in a three-day sweep to remove firearms from those prohibited from owning them in the counties of Contra Costa, Santa Clara, San Francisco, San Mateo, Sonoma, and Solano. In February, agents conducted another successful sweep with local law enforcement partners in Los Angeles County. On March 28, Attorney General Bonta announced charges against a San Bernardino man observed by undercover BOF Special Agents purchasing a ghost gun kit at a gun show and later found in possession of illegal firearms and ammunition, despite being previously convicted of a violent felony and banned from owning firearms.

BOF serves the people of California through education, regulation, and enforcement actions regarding the manufacture, sale, ownership, safety training, and transfer of firearms and ammunition. BOF staff are leaders in providing firearms expertise and information to law enforcement, legislators, and the general public in a comprehensive program to promote legitimate and responsible firearms possession and use by California residents. BOF is looking to hire additional Special Agents and more information on assessments for relevant job openings can be found on DOJ's website here: oag.ca.gov/careers/exams

This morning, Attorney General Bonta participated in a press call with Giffords Law Center to discuss the rule. His remarks and an audio recording can be accessed here.

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Attorney General Bonta Announces Charges Against Prohibited Felon in Possession of Illegal Firearms and Ammunition

March 28, 2022
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

As part of an undercover operation, DOJ Special Agents seized ghost guns and other firearms from man banned for life from possessing them

SAN BERNARDINO — California Attorney General Rob Bonta today announced the arrest of and charges filed against a San Bernardino man found in possession of illegal firearms and ammunition, despite being previously convicted of a felony and banned from owning firearms. The individual was on parole after serving a sentence of 32-years to life for a violent felony and is prohibited from owning and possessing firearms and ammunition. California Department of Justice Bureau of Firearms Special Agents observed the suspect purchasing an AR-15 style ghost gun kit at a San Bernardino gun show. After obtaining a search warrant, agents located the illegal weapons and ammunition at the suspect’s home.  

“Across California, we are working day in and day out to make our communities safer,” said Attorney General Bonta. “Whether it is a widespread APPS sweep, cross-referencing gun purchases in individual cases, or conducting undercover work, these strategies are critical to preventing gun violence in California. I am grateful for the efforts of our hard-working DOJ Special Agents whose work resulted in the charges we are announcing today.”

Agents recovered from the defendant’s possession an unserialized handgun, unserialized short-barreled rifle, ammunition, and an AR-15 style ghost gun kit. The defendant is charged with two felony counts of felon in possession of a firearm, one felony count of possession of a short-barreled rifle, and a felony count of unlawful possession of ammunition. Charges were filed in the San Bernardino Superior Court.

Protecting California communities and addressing gun violence remains one of Attorney General Bonta’s top priorities. In February 2022, Attorney General Bonta announced a five-day sweep with law enforcement partners targeting individuals in 51 cities in Los Angeles County listed as prohibited from possessing firearms in DOJ’s APPS database, and resulted in 13 arrests, as well as the seizure of 114 firearms, including assault weapons, ghost guns, lower receivers, handguns, rifles and shotguns, as well as 49,148 rounds of ammunition, and 87 high-capacity magazines. And in January 2022, APPS agents from throughout the state consolidated their investigative efforts in the Bay Area and worked with local and federal law enforcement to engage in a three-day sweep, resulting in the seizure of 30 firearms and eight arrests.

In 2006, the State of California became the first and only state in the nation to establish a system for tracking firearm owners who fall into a prohibited status. The APPS database works to identify individuals who lawfully procured firearms and later became prohibited from owning or possessing them. In general, prohibited persons in APPS include individuals who were convicted of a felony or a violent misdemeanor, were placed under a domestic violence or other restraining order, or suffer from serious mental illness. 

DOJ’s Bureau of Firearms (BOF) serves the people of California through education, regulation, and enforcement actions regarding the manufacture, sale, ownership, safety training, and transfer of firearms and ammunition. BOF staff are leaders in providing firearms expertise and information to law enforcement, legislators, and the general public in a comprehensive program to promote legitimate and responsible firearms possession and use by California residents. The Bureau of Firearms is looking to hire additional special agents and more information on assessments for relevant job openings can be found on the California Department of Justice website at oag.ca.gov/careers/exams.

A copy of the complaint can be found here

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Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Issues Statement Following Ninth Circuit Ruling in Peruta v. County of San Diego

June 9, 2016
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

LOS ANGELES - Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today issued the following statement on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling in Peruta v. County of San Diego:

"The devastating impact gun violence has on our communities underscores the need for common sense gun safety laws. The court's decision is a victory for public safety and sensible gun safety laws.  The ruling ensures that local law enforcement leaders have the tools they need to protect public safety by determining who can carry loaded, concealed weapons in our communities."

The case was argued before the court by California’s Solicitor General, Edward DuMont.

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Attorney General Kamala D. Harris, 13 Attorneys General Urge Congress to Fund Gun Violence Research

May 23, 2016
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

LOS ANGELES – Attorney General Kamala D. Harris and the Attorneys General of 12 other states and the District of Columbia today sent a letter to the leaders of both houses of Congress, urging them to immediately direct funding to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to research causes and prevention of gun-related injuries and deaths.

“Gun violence terrorizes our communities and threatens our public safety,” said Attorney General Harris. “As Attorney General, I see the devastating impact of gun violence every day.  I urge Congress to lift the restriction on funding research into the causes of gun violence, which will promote public safety and save lives.”

The CDC distributes over $11 billion in research grants annually, but since 1996 Congress has restricted the use of any CDC funds to research gun violence prevention. While more than half a million Americans have died from gun violence over the past twenty years, federal funding for gun violence research has been cut by 96 percent.

The letter, also signed by the Attorneys General of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont , Virginia, and Washington calls on Congress to fund the CDC to research urgent questions about the root causes of gun violence and ways to most effectively intervene and prevent gun-related injuries and deaths, such as gun safety improvements or counseling by healthcare providers.

The Attorneys General wrote in the letter that more than 33,000 people die every year in the United States from gun violence and unintentional shootings account for an additional 600 deaths annually. Gun violence also disproportionately affects communities of color, as African Americans are nearly twice as likely to be injured or killed by guns as white individuals. 

Attorney General Harris has prioritized implementing effective gun safety measures in California. This year, she called for California to strengthen its research efforts around gun violence prevention, supporting SB 1006, authored by Senator Lois Wolk, to urge the University of California Regents to establish a California Firearm Violence Research Center.

Since November 2013, Attorney General Harris has brought the number of individuals in the Armed Prohibited Persons System (APPS) database to a historic low of under 11,000, the lowest level since 2008—effectively removing nearly 25,000 individuals who are prohibited from owning a firearm due to their criminal history, mental health status, or existence of a restraining order.

In 2013, Attorney General Harris also convened a Leadership Group of California’s district attorneys to collaboratively develop recommendations to reduce gun violence through enforcement of existing laws and prevention efforts.

The letter is attached to the online version of this news release at oag.ca.gov/news.