Attorney General Bonta: Ghost Guns Must Stop Haunting America

Wednesday, July 3, 2024
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OAKLAND — California Attorney General Rob Bonta today joined a coalition of 22 attorneys general urging the United States Supreme Court to overturn a decision from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which held that a rule by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) regulating ghost guns is inconsistent with a federal statute. The coalition filed the brief in VanDerStok v. Garland in support of the rule, which took effect in August 2022 and recognizes that weapon parts kits and certain partially complete frames and receivers are “firearms” under the Gun Control Act of 1968. Under federal law, manufacturers and dealers must keep records of, conduct background checks on, and serialize “firearms” to prevent them from falling into the hands of criminals and others who are prohibited from possessing firearms—and to allow the weapons to be traced if they are used to commit crimes. ATF issued the rule to impose those requirements on the weapon parts that are used to make ghost guns.

“In the state of California, we have seen firsthand the effectiveness of our commonsense gun laws, and it is imperative that similar laws are implemented nationwide,” said Attorney General Bonta. “Each year, an increasing number of unregistered firearms and components find their way into our state from areas with laxer gun control laws. This not only leaves law enforcement in the dark but also puts our communities at risk. This federal rule is crucial to keeping ghost guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals and critical to preventing and solving violent, firearm-related crimes. I am committed to advocating for regulations by ATF in order to ensure the well-being and security of all Californians.” 

The lawsuit, filed by individual gun owners and pro-gun groups, seeks to block ATF’s 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. 

Attorney General Bonta has defended ATF’s rule several times previously, as he joined similar briefs for lawsuits pending in the U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakotathe U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, and the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, as well as briefs in the Supreme Court and Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in this case.

A copy of the brief can be found here.

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