Attorney General Bonta, District Attorney Boudin Announce Joint Effort Against Ghost Gun Kit Retailers and Manufacturers
SAN FRANCISCO – California Attorney General Rob Bonta, joined by San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, and Keker, Van Nest & Peters, LLP, announced a joint effort today against ghost gun kit manufacturer and retailers Blackhawk Manufacturing Group, Inc. (Blackhawk); MDX Corporation (MDX), and GS Performance, LLC (Glockstore). Gun kits sold by each of these three retailers can be used to self-assemble firearms known as “ghost guns.” Ghost guns are firearms that are not serialized, which allows unlicensed manufacturers and illegal possessors to bypass standard California requirements such as registration and background checks, rendering them largely untraceable by law enforcement.
“The manufacture and sale of ghost gun kits has created an industry that will become more dangerous if it is not properly regulated,” said Attorney General Bonta. “When firearms 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 the public less safe. As firearm-related deaths and injuries rise, it becomes a more pressing public health and safety issue here in California – and throughout the country. We must use every tool we have, including today’s lawsuit to keep the public safe.”
“We are thrilled that AG Bonta is bringing the weight of his office to this groundbreaking litigation to prevent ghost guns from being dumped onto the streets of San Francisco and throughout the state of California,” said District Attorney Boudin. “Together, with the Giffords Law Center, and Keker, Van Nest, and Peters, our offices will confront the gun violence epidemic at its source.”
“Keker, Van Nest & Peters is proud to be partnering with Attorney General Bonta and District Attorney Chesa Boudin on this groundbreaking litigation to hold ghost gun manufacturers and retailers accountable,” said Brook Dooley, Partner, Keker, Van Nest & Peters. “The illegal practices of these defendants must stop and we are proud to help California officials lead the way.”
“Ghost guns are flooding into communities across California and people are being killed as a result,” said Esther Sanchez-Gomez, Litigation Attorney, Giffords Law Center. “The companies named in our lawsuit are dealing in misinformation and profit directly from this violence. With the assistance of Attorney General Bonta’s office, we plan to hold these reckless companies accountable for the deaths and violence caused by their disregard of federal and state firearm regulations and consumer protection laws.”
“As a Black mother who lost my youngest son, George C. Scott, at age 24 , July 17, 1996 over 25 years ago, and my nephew at age 23, I want to thank our elected leaders SFDA Chesa Boudin, Attorney General Rob Bonta, The Giffords Law Center, and Keker, Van Nest & Peters for taking on the corporations that push deadly unregulated guns into our Black and Brown communities that are taking lives daily in our state and our entire nation,” said Mattie Scott, Founder, Healing 4 Our Families & Our Nation; President, Brady United Against Gun Violence, and San Francisco Mothers In Charge Chapter Leader. “We cannot simply arrest and prosecute our way out of gun violence. We must and can get guns off our streets and keep our Black & Brown communities safe without fueling racial disparities, mass incarceration and injustice throughout our broken criminal "Just us" system. Thank you for your courageous leadership and helping to save lives, because this is about all of us or none of us. Our lives matter!”
“The team at The Wraparound Project and all of our trauma surgeons personally witness the effects of gun violence in our community every day. Gun violence is a public health crisis. As a city, as a state, and as a nation, we must remove ghost guns from our streets to stop them from increasing violence and deaths in the communities that we serve,” said Rebecca Plevin, Assistant Professor of Surgery, Trauma and Surgical Critical Care, Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Director of San Francisco Wraparound Project, University of California San Francisco.*
*The views expressed in this statement belong to Dr. Plevin and are not made on behalf of the University of California, San Francisco.
Ghost gun kits, which commonly contain unfinished frames and receivers, can be used to assemble a fully functional weapon in as little as 15 minutes. In recent years, these untraceable firearms have been used in multiple tragedies in California.
In June 2013, a shooter killed five people on and around the Santa Monica College campus using an AR-15-style ghost gun rifle. 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 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 2019, the Attorney General’s Office served an investigative subpoena and a set of investigative interrogatories on Glockstore – a Tennessee limited liability company based in San Diego and Tennessee that sells Glock factory handguns, custom built handguns, aftermarket parts, and gun kits that allow consumers to self-assemble their own handgun. In March, the San Francisco Superior Court ordered Glockstore to comply with the investigative subpoena and interrogatories.
In August, the San Francisco District Attorney’s office, joined by Giffords and Keker, Van Nest, and Peters, LLP, filed a suit against Glockstore, Blackhawk, and MDX Performance. The Attorney General’s office now joins in that lawsuit, bringing into this litigation the information they have discovered through their years-long investigation.
The Assembly of Firearms Law requires consumers who purchase a frame or receiver blank and assemble the firearm to apply to the California Department of Justice for a serial number and complete a background check to demonstrate that they are not prohibited from possessing a firearm under state or federal law. Today’s complaint alleges that the companies undermine and evade the law and employ false and deceptive advertising practices by leading buyers to believe that frames and receivers purchased in gun kits are legal, without explaining the legal obligations they will face under the Assembly of Firearms Law if they assemble the firearm.
The California Unsafe Handgun Act requires handguns sold within the state to pass a firing test and drop safety test, among other requirements. The complaint alleges the defendants’ business practices are unlawful, unfair, fraudulent, and in violation of the Act because the companies do not disclose to gun kit buyers that the law’s requirements apply to them as individual private firearm manufacturers.
According to the complaint, Blackhawk and Glockstore also violate the California Manufacturer of Firearms Law by failing to comply with the requirement that certain California firearm manufacturers engrave all frame and receiver blanks with a unique serial number.
Attorney General Bonta and District Attorney Boudin are committed to keeping Californians safe. Last month, the Attorney General led a coalition of state attorneys general in filing an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court defending New York’s law regulating when individuals may obtain a license to carry firearms in public. In August, Attorney General Bonta supported a new Proposed Rule by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosive’s (ATF) that would help regulate ghost guns by clarifying the agency’s definition of what qualifies as a firearm. The Proposed Rule follows a lawsuit in 2020 by the Attorney General’s Office, Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, and other plaintiffs, challenging ATF’s firearm definitions, which have enabled ghost gun manufacturing and sales.
Earlier this year, the SFDA’s Victims Services Division began a partnership with UCSF’s Project Wraparound, a violence interruption program, working together to provide services to all victims of firearm violence. In June of this year, District Attorney Boudin launched a first of its kind Gun Violence Restraining Order program in a prosecutor’s office to assist people in getting guns out of the hands of individuals who pose a danger to themselves or others.
Attorney General Bonta has also urged Californians to use the state’s Gun Violence Restraining Order law, legislation that he co-authored when he was in the Assembly. The Attorney General is currently defending California’s own commonsense regulations, including the state’s assault weapons ban and prohibition on large capacity magazines.
A copy of the complaint is available here.