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California Attorney General Sues the ATF Over Sales of ‘Ghost Guns’

Fed up with the growing number of untraceable homemade firearms used in gun crimes and mass shootings, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced a federal lawsuit Tuesday to force the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to crack down on so-called “ghost guns” that skirt laws requiring background checks and age verification.

Lacking a commercial serial number and purchasable without a background check, “ghost guns” are not considered firearms subject to ATF regulation under the Gun Control Act because a central piece remains unfinished — the receiver or frame of the weapon, which houses all of its internal components including the barrel and trigger mechanism.

Becerra disputes this interpretation. His lawsuit notes the Gun Control Act expressly provides that a receiver or frame can be considered a firearm because such pieces are “designed to or may readily be converted” into functional weapons

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, backed by the Giffords Law Center, filed a lawsuit against the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to force it to regulate the sales of 80% firearms. Two named plaintiffs in the lawsuit are fathers of students killed in the 2019 shooting at Saugus High School. The suit asks for a court order overruling the ATF’s opinion on unregulated sales of 80% lowers and frames.

Shearer, who is co-counsel in the lawsuit, said state gun laws have been undermined by the ATF’s refusal to treat the parts used to build homemade guns as firearms. This allows “unscrupulous” DIY firearm sellers to flood the gun market.

“The ATF has specifically exempted them from the federal definition of a firearm, meaning federal gun laws don’t apply to them. As a result, people can order and build these guns without passing background check or even verifying their age,” she said. “This has opened the biggest loophole you can imagine in our federal and state gun laws.”

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Chicago and other cities included this diagram in a federal complaint filed Wednesday, Aug. 26, against the ATF in Manhattan. (Courthouse News image)

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