Attorney General Bonta Files Motion for Preliminary Injunction Against Gun Retailers to Halt Sales of Illegal Ghost Gun Kits

Monday, May 23, 2022
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SAN FRANCISCO – California Attorney General Rob Bonta, along with San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, filed a motion for preliminary injunction to halt the sale of illegal ghost gun kits by retailers MDX Corporation (MDX), GS Performance, LLC (Glockstore) and Blackhawk Manufacturing (Blackhawk). This action is part of a lawsuit filed by Attorney General Bonta and San Francisco District Attorney Boudin in October 2021 against the ghost gun kit manufacturer and retailers. These retailers unlawfully sold gun kits that can be used by purchasers to illegally self-assemble firearms known as “ghost guns.” Ghost guns are illegal firearms that are not serialized, which allows unlicensed manufacturers and illegal possessors to bypass standard California requirements such as 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. “Companies who flout the law and endanger the public by putting untraceable weapons into dangerous hands must be held accountable. There have been more mass shootings in the nation than days in the year in 2022. My office will continue to use every legal tool available to end this gun violence epidemic and to keep Californians safe.”

“In the wake of several mass shootings across the country, it has never been more urgent to stop the flow of guns into our communities. Ghost guns pose a grave and urgent threat to public safety; the companies we are prosecuting make untraceable firearms readily available to children and people prohibited from owning weapons,” said District Attorney Boudin. “I promised last week to take aggressive action to advance this case, and on Friday we made good on that promise by filing this motion for a preliminary injunction. As our partners in law enforcement have attested, these dangerous weapons have flooded our communities, and they must be stopped immediately.”

“We’re asking the court to enjoin the defendants from contributing to a wave of unserialized, untraceable and unsafe firearms sweeping across the state,” said Travis Silva, a partner with Keker, Van Nest & Peters. “Through the sale of kits that can be assembled in 30 minutes to create a fully functioning firearm, the defendants violate federal and state laws to usurp background check, gun registration, and gun safety regulations. Ghost guns are the fastest-growing gun safety problem in our country, and in a nation plagued by gun violence we cannot let these companies continue to evade the law.”

“Ghost guns pose an existential threat to all the gun safety laws that help to keep us safe. Defendants’ ghost gun kits are dangerous, and Defendants are selling them without background checks, to Californians who mistakenly believe — thanks to Defendants’ own statements — that they are legal when they are not. Defendants are profiting off the proliferation of illegal firearms in California, including from their own irresponsible lies,” said Esther Giffords, a Senior Litigation Attorney with the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.  

Ghost gun kits, which commonly contain unfinished frames and receivers, can be unlawfully used to assemble a fully functional weapon in less than 30 minutes. The preliminary injunction asks the court to immediately halt MDX, Glockstore, and Blackhawk from selling ghost gun kits as the retailers are alleged to have refused to adhere to California and federal law, by selling ghost gun kits that make it possible for consumers to readily build fully functional firearms capable of shooting the same ammunition as traditional guns. These practices are contributing to a wave of unserialized, untraceable, and unsafe firearms sweeping across the state.

Attorney General Bonta and co-counsel assert in the brief that the retailers’ continued sale of ghost gun kits violates:

  • Federal Gun Control Act of 1968 as their kits do not meet federal requirements that a firearm be engraved with a serial number and be sold only after running a background check to confirm the purchaser can legally purchase a gun;
  • California's Assembly of Firearms Law (AFL), which requires that consumers who privately manufacture handguns submit to background checks and engrave serial numbers on their firearms. The retailers violate the AFL by, among other reasons, selling parts kits that lack the required steel plate to meet serialization requirements and aiding and abetting consumers in making an end-around the AFL’s registration requirement; and
  • California’s Unsafe Handgun Act, which requires that new handgun models manufactured in California contain certain safety components, and they must also undergo rigorous safety testing before they can be approved for manufacture or sale

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 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. 

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, law enforcement agencies seized a total of 26 ghost guns. By 2021, that number has increased to 12,388.

Today's motion was supported by declarations from the San Francisco Police Department, the San Mateo District Attorney, and the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Police Department attesting to the harm posed by ghost guns.

The rise of ghost guns also impacts the work of the California Department of Justice (DOJ). For example, DOJ reported a nearly 44% increase in ghost guns seized as part of DOJ’s efforts to remove guns from prohibited persons in the Armed and Prohibited Persons Database.  

Gun violence remains a growing threat to public safety. Attorney General Bonta is addressing this issue strategically and aggressively by:

A copy of the motion is available here.

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