SF District Attorney Joins Lawsuit against Firms Selling ‘Ghost Guns’

By The Vanguard Staff

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – A motion was filed late Friday here in superior court to stop the sale of ghost gun kits in California by three defendant manufacturer and retailers, according to San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin.

Boudin announced Friday that the SF District Attorney’s Office, California Attorney General Rob Bonta, the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, and the law firm Keker, Van Nest & Peters LLP filed the pleading.

“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 Boudin.

Boudin’s office explained, “Ghost guns are privately manufactured firearms that lack a serial number and are sold without background checks and other legal safeguards.  The parts to assemble ghost guns are sold online in kits, and consumers finalize the gun assembly at home.  Assembling a fully functional firearm requires minimal tools and can be completed in less than 30 minutes, often assisted by online tutorials that are readily available on YouTube.”

In the filing, the defendants are Blackhawk Manufacturing Group, Inc., GS Performance, LLC, and MDX Corporation. Each sell ghost gun parts kits online, and thus are companies profiting off the illegal proliferation of ghost guns in California, according the pleading.

The motion for preliminary injunction seeks to stop the firms from “selling their ghost gun parts kits immediately on the basis that such business practices are unfair, violate federal and California law, and pose a grave threat to public safety,” said the SF DA.

Law enforcement added, “Ghost guns impede investigations of firearm crimes and fuel cycles of gun violence.  Ghost guns do not have serial numbers or other methods of tracing the guns or their owners.  As a result, law enforcement is unable to track them or to regulate who has access to these weapons.”

“The lack of tracing information also makes it difficult for law enforcement analysis to identify patterns of interstate illegal firearms trafficking,” wrote SFPD Chief Bill Scott, noting the number of ghost guns has skyrocketed in recent years.

The California DOJ’s Bureau of Firearms, which maintains records of ghost gun seizures across California, reported, according to Boudin’s office, “only 26 ghost guns seizures in 2015.  However, that number has increased dramatically each year since, peaking at 12,388 seizures in California in 2021.”

SFPD’s Scott said the “growth of seizures in San Francisco has been ‘exponential, explaining in 2015, SFPD did not seize a single ghost gun in San Francisco, but in 2021, SFPD seized 217 ghost guns.”

“Ghost guns are increasingly involved in firearm-related crimes.  The DOJ’s Bureau of Firearms has seen a rise in persons prohibited from possessing a firearm found to be in possession of ghost guns,” said the SF DA office statement.

And, Chief Scott wrote that privately manufactured firearms “are seized in relation to a wide range of criminal violations,” including “prohibited person in possession of a firearm, robbery, assault with a firearm, and homicide.” 

The motion adds “in selling ghost gun parts kits online, defendants violate the federal Gun Control Act (GCA) by selling firearms without the requisite Federal Firearm License and circumventing basic federal requirements such as engraving serial numbers on firearms and running background checks on purchasers.  Undercover investigators purchased ghost gun parts kits on each of Defendants’ websites without having to pass a background check.”

The motion also contends that Defendants violate California law, including the Assembly of Firearms Law (AFL), which requires private manufacturers of firearms in California to apply for a serial number and undergo a background check.

“Defendants violate the AFL by, among other reasons, selling parts kits that lack the required steel plate to meet the AFL’s serialization requirements, and by aiding and abetting their end customers in making an end-around the AFL’s registration requirements,” the motion reads.

Boudin added, “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.”

“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 CA 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 our 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,” Bonta said.

“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, adding, “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,” Silva added.

“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.

The state’s motion for a preliminary injunction is backed by, said Boudin, a “broad coalition of law enforcement agencies in the Bay Area,” including the San Francisco Police Department.

SF Chief Bill Scott said he submitted a declaration in support of the motion, and wrote “privately manufactured firearms (PMFs) and illegally possessed firearms pose an increasing public safety risk in the City and County of San Francisco.

“PMFs complicate the work of the San Francisco Police Department by increasing criminal access to firearms, by reducing the ability to track or trace firearms either individually or as a class, and by creating potentially inherently danger firearms due to inconsistent, variable, or lacking quality control,” Scott added.

“Ghost guns pose a grave public safety problem in San Mateo County,” writes San Mateo County District Attorney Stephen Wagstaffe in a declaration submitted in support of the motion.

Noting the “ghost gun crisis is relatively new,” DA Wagstaffe suggests “about one-third of all firearms-related crimes that the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office charged in 2021 involved ghost guns, with this proportion increasing each of the past two years.”

BART Chief of Police Edgardo Alvarez also submitted a declaration in support the motion.

“We ask the Court to stop Defendants from continuing to harm Californians while the judicial process takes its course, and we hope for a swift ruling that will make California safer by stopping the flood of ghost guns at their source,” said Giffords.

The motion is to be heard July 8 in San Francisco Superior Court.

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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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