CA Attorney General Bonta Signs Amicus Brief, Continues Defending ATF Rule to Protect Public from ‘Ghost’ Guns

Attorney General Rob Bonta

By Leila Katibah

SACRAMENTO, CA – California Attorney General Rob Bonta joined a coalition of 20 attorneys general this past week in an amicus brief supporting the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) and efforts to protect the public from dangerous and untraceable “ghost” guns.

A friend-of-the-court brief was filed by the coalition in support of ATF’s opposition to a motion for a preliminary injunction in VanDerStok v. Garland, a currently pending case in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas.

This brief argues that the ATF rule falls within the Gun Control Act, compliments already existing state laws, and was designed to fill in the gaps in states’ enforcement.

The VanDerStok v. Garland 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. This is the third time Attorney General Bonta defended ATF’s rule.

Firearms lacking a serial number enable illegal gunowners and unlicensed manufacturers to bypass California gun laws requiring firearm ownership recording and background checks, rendering the guns untraceable to law enforcement, Bonta said.

“There have been more mass shootings in our nation than days in the year in 2022,” said Attorney General Bonta, citing that protective measures are necessary nationwide. “Every year, we see more unserialized firearms and parts entering our state from states with fewer and weaker gun protections, leaving our law enforcement in the dark and our communities in danger.”

“It is a devastating fact that in our nation, children and teens are more likely to die by gun than any illness or accident. We cannot accept this as normal when we know that there are effective strategies to save our kids,” continued AG Bonta.

The ATF rule, the amicus brief states, helps ensure that gun buyers throughout the nation pass background checks prior to purchasing easily assembled weapon-part kits used to build ghost guns. Law enforcement officers can thus trace self-made guns that are later used in a crime.

It also limits firearm traffickers’ ability, Bonta and the other AGs state, to illegally distribute these dangerous weapons into California, as the number of illegal ghost guns in California has continued to rise yearly, with 26 ghost guns seized in 2015 and 12,388 seized by 2021. 

Multiple tragedies in California were the result of untraceable ghost guns, such as the Saugus High School shooting and the Rancho Tehama Reserve shooting, said Bonta, adding, California’s efforts to advance laws and policies preventing gun violence and saving lives have resulted in a 37 percent lower gun death rate than the national average, ranking 44th lowest in the nation according to the Center for Disease Control.

The lack of federal enforcement proliferates the distribution and use of ghost weapons, the amicus brief notes, adding the ATF’s rule alleviates this problem by enforcing states to halt the flow of ghost guns.

The rule also clarifies definitions in the Gun Control Act by including weapon parts and kits as firearms, thus subjecting them to serialization and background checks required of conventionally manufactured guns.

Attorney General Bonta joined the attorneys general of District of Columbia, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington, and Wisconsin.

About The Author

Leila Katibah is an undergraduate student at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is double majoring in Sociology and Middle East Studies with a minor in Professional Writing. After graduating, Leila plans to attend law school to pursue a career in Public International Law.

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1 Comment

  1. Walter Shwe

    I fully support Attorney General Bonta’s opposition to the lifting of the ban on ghost guns. All those that oppose this effort favor more gun deaths. The 2nd Amendment only protects gun ownership of National Guard personnel.

    How the NRA Rewrote the Second Amendment: “A fraud on the American public.” That’s how former Chief Justice Warren Burger described the idea that the Second Amendment gives an unfettered individual right to a gun. When he spoke these words to PBS in 1990, the rock-ribbed conservative appointed by Richard Nixon was expressing the longtime consensus of historians and judges across the political spectrum.

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