In the company of attorneys general from 19 states and the District of Columbia, California Attorney General Rob Bonta backed a new federal rule against ghost guns in an amicus brief filed this week.
The amicus brief, which is an opinion submitted to the court by a party not involved in a case but who carries weight, was supported by Bonta in the wake of mass shootings and the rise of ghost guns, his office said.
Ghost guns are firearms that are privately made without a serial number, making them essentially untraceable for law enforcement. Flying under the radar of state requirements, unlicensed owners and manufacturers forgo background checks and ownership recordings for these illegally produced firearms.
The U.S. Department of Justice said it has seen a tenfold increase in the amount of ghost guns seized by law enforcement since 2016 — last year alone, 20,000 suspected ghost guns were reported to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
In response, the Biden Administration issued a federal rule in April to extend firearm regulations to include homemade guns and easy-assembly gun kits. The rule, which will go into effect next month, will require buyers to pass background checks and for manufacturers to be licensed and produce serialized gun kits.
“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,”Attorney General Rob Bonta
The rule has since been challenged by a Texas-based gun parts manufacturer, which argues the rule is not legally sound and threatens manufacturers’ ability to stay in business.
The group of attorneys general, along with Bonta, say state regulations need to be backed with meaningful federal oversight.
“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,” Bonta said in a statement.
In California, state law enforcement officers seized 12,388 ghost guns last year, in comparison to 26 in 2015.
Though California has the 44th lowest gun death rate in the nation, it is no exception to fatal shootings involving ghost guns. A recent example was in March 2022, when a shooter banned from purchasing firearms killed his three children, a chaperone and himself in a church in Sacramento. Or in 2019, when five Saugus High School students were shot, two killed, by their 16-year-old classmate with a gun made by a kit.
“I am in support of stronger federal efforts to curb the gun violence sweeping our country and the killing of thousands of Americans, including children,” Bonta said. “We refuse to accept that gun deaths are somehow normal when we know that there are effective strategies to stop them. My office will continue to use every legal tool available to end this gun violence epidemic and to keep Californians safe.”