Rachel Marshall, (415) 416-4468 / Rachel.Marshall@sfgov.org
SAN FRANCISCO – Today, San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin announces that the District Attorney’s Office has submitted for filing a civil prosecution action against three corporations that manufacture and distribute ghost guns throughout California. Keker, Van Nest & Peters, LLP and the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence are co-counsel in this groundbreaking case.
“Today we directly take on those who are responsible for bringing these dangerous and unregulated weapons into the streets of San Francisco and throughout the state of California,” said District Attorney Boudin. “Ghost guns pose a grave threat to public safety; these untraceable firearms are readily available to children and prohibited persons. We will hold the companies responsible for their manufacture and distribution accountable. Our office is proud to be working with some of the nation’s finest trial lawyers at Keker, Van Nest, and Peters, as well as with some of the leading firearm litigation and regulatory experts in the country at the Giffords Law Center. Together we will confront the severity of the gun violence epidemic at its source.”
“Keker, Van Nest & Peters is proud to be partnering with District Attorney Boudin’s office on this groundbreaking litigation to hold ghost gun manufacturers and retailers accountable,” said John Keker of Keker, Van Nest & Peters. “The defendants manufacture and sell dangerous weapons without verifying consumers’ ages or eligibility to buy guns. These illegal practices allow children and others who cannot lawfully buy weapons to obtain them far too easily. We look forward to our continued partnership with District Attorney Boudin’s office and the Giffords Law Center to prevent gun violence in California.”
“Ghost guns are flooding into communities across California and people are being killed as a result,” said Hannah Shearer, Litigation Director of Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. “The companies named in our lawsuit are dealing in misinformation and profit directly from this violence. Their illegal business practices include selling ghost gun parts and kits to Californians who haven’t passed background checks. They also fail to disclose to the buyers that anyone who builds a ghost gun faces criminal liability if they fail to obtain a serial number or submit homemade handguns for safety testing. It is time to hold these reckless companies accountable for the deaths, violence, and criminal prosecutions caused by their disregard of federal and state firearm regulations and consumer protection laws.”
Understanding Ghost Guns
The firearms commonly referred to as “ghost guns” are untraceable, fully functional, unregistered guns pre-packaged for assembly by purchasers. Also referred to as Privately Manufactured Firearms (PMFs), they are sold in kits containing the necessary components for the purchaser to assemble at home. Countless YouTube videos and internet sites are available to guide a consumer in finalizing the gun assembly at home. Assembly requires minimal tools and can be completed in under an hour—sometimes significantly less.
Manufacturers and sellers of ghost gun kits and parts do not follow firearm sales regulations. Ghost guns do not come with serial numbers or other methods of tracing the guns or their owners and, as a result, the government is unable to track them or to regulate who has access to these weapons.
The pre-packaged kits supplied by ghost gun manufacturers and retailers allow for easy and fast assembly of fully functional weapons. Using common tools, an officer acting under the direction of the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office was able to assemble the pistol frame of one of the defendant’s ghost guns in 24 minutes and 40 seconds and attach it to a slide assembled in about five minutes. He was then able to fire the gun.
The Proliferation of Ghost Guns in San Francisco and California
The number of ghost guns associated with shootings in San Francisco has dramatically and rapidly increased in recent years. As San Francisco Police Chief William Scott told the San Francisco Chronicle, nearly half of the firearms recovered in 2020 in connection with San Francisco homicides were ghost guns—a staggering increase since 2019, when that number was just 6%.
According to San Francisco Police Department data, in 2016 just six ghost guns were recovered by police; 164 ghost guns were recovered in 2020—an astronomical increase of over 2000%. As of just August of 2021, the San Francisco crime lab has already processed over 150 ghost guns. These numbers, of course, only represent those ghost guns the police actually recover—but fail to capture the full number of ghost guns possessed and used in San Francisco.
California suffers the bulk of the impact of ghost guns. According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), which has been conducting trainings for law enforcement personnel throughout the United States, in 2020, the state of California accounted for 65% of all ghost guns seized by their office. The next highest state was Maryland, which accounted for just 7% of the national total.
This troubling trend coincides with an increase in gun violence throughout the state of California and the nation, an increase that researchers attribute directly to the increase in firearms. There have been many instances of ghost guns used in mass shootings, including in California. Death by suicide is the second most common form of death for children and young adults ages 10 to 34—and studies have shown that access to firearms increases suicide risk dramatically.
Ghost guns impede investigations of firearm crimes and fuel cycles of gun violence. Because ghost guns lack serial numbers and there are no records of their sale, law enforcement cannot initiate trace requests of ghost guns through the ATF or the California Department of Justice when such firearms are recovered in crimes.
The proliferation of ghost guns poses an obvious public safety issue. Ghost gun companies do not follow federal and state point-of-sale and record-keeping requirements; as a result, anyone can obtain a ghost gun—even if they cannot lawfully possess or purchase a firearm due, for example, to a criminal history. People ineligible to possess firearms have obtained ghost guns only to use them to shoot and kill.
Ghost guns are also particularly dangerous in that because they are assembled privately, they fail to undergo the rigorous safety testing required under the law. These safety measures include drop safety testing to ensure a firearm will not accidentally discharge if dropped, as well as firing tests to ensure that the weapon can be fired multiple times without malfunction. The lack of these safety testing measures only increases the danger these weapons pose—including to children.
Ghost gun manufacturers and retailers have allowed untested and untraceable weapons to be available to children and those prohibited by our laws from possessing firearms. As the Complaint alleges, the cost of the ghost gun companies’ illegal actions is “measured in lives.”
The Litigation Brought by DA Boudin’s Office, Keker, Van Nest & Peters and Giffords Law Center
The District Attorney’s Office partnered with co-counsel Keker, Van Nest & Peters and Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence to bring this groundbreaking action against three named Defendants: Blackhawk Manufacturing Group, Inc.; GS Performance, LLC; MDX Corporation; and additional unknown defendants. To bring this suit, District Attorney Boudin invoked his civil powers under California law – a power that is given to district attorneys to civilly prosecute corporations for violating the law. The lawsuit seeks monetary penalties and an injunction prohibiting defendants from violating federal and state gun laws.
It is alleged that Defendants’ business practices violate the California Unfair Competition Law (“UCL”), Business and Professions Code sections 17200 et seq., and the California False Advertising Law (“FAL”), Business and Professions Code sections 17500 et seq. The UCL prohibits unlawful, unfair, and fraudulent business practices in California. Ghost gun manufacturers and retailers do not comply with lawful business practices and evade the laws governing the manufacture, sale, and possession of firearms—laws designed to protect consumer and public safety. What’s more, as the complaint sets out, ghost gun companies deceive California consumers about the legality of their products. There are many requirements under California law for gun ownership and registration, but the Complaint alleges that ghost gun companies mislead consumers into believing that ghost guns are legal, thus engaging in false advertising and fraudulent business practices.
The lawsuit further alleges that ghost gun companies violate the federal Gun Control Act, which requires serial numbers on all firearms and requires that all firearms sales take place through a Federal Firearm Licensee, which must run background checks. It also alleges violations of the California Assembly of Firearms Law, which forecloses any ghost gun loopholes by specifically requiring that private manufacturers of firearms apply to the California DOJ for a serial number—and to undergo background checks. Defendants are also accused of undermining the California Unsafe Handguns Act (“UHA”), which requires that handguns—including ghost guns—sold within California meet certain reliability and safety standards—including a firing test and a drop safety test. Some of the Defendants are also accused of violating the California Manufacture of Firearms Law, requiring any federally-licensed firearms manufacturer who manufactures at least 50 firearms per year to obtain a California firearm manufacturing license—which itself comes with specific obligations, including engraving of serial numbers.
The Need for New Approaches to End the Gun Violence Epidemic
The litigation brought by District Attorney Boudin’s Office; Keker, Van Nest & Peters; and Giffords Center to Prevent Gun Violence represents a bold new approach in the effort to end gun violence. Elected and community leaders praised the action.
“Getting guns off of the street is vital in the fight against violence. We have been trying to remove guns from our community for years and we need to continue to focus on strategies that take guns out of the hands of people wanting to cause harm to others. I want to thank DA Boudin for taking a major step in preventing more guns from coming into our neighborhoods,” said Shamann Walton, President of the SF Board of Supervisors, representing District 10. “Suing these ghost gun manufacturers for the irresponsible and irreparable harm they cause will aid us in the battle against gun violence and hold these companies accountable.”
“As a mother who lost my youngest son, George C. Scott, at 24 and a nephew at 23, along with countless mothers, fathers and families to this gun violence epidemic here in San Francisco and our entire nation, and as an activist who continues to work with incarcerated people for real justice, I know firsthand the critical urgency with which we must find new unbiased approaches to end gun violence,” said Mattie Scott, Founder of Mothers in Charge, and President of Brady United Against Gun Violence. “Decades of rising gun violence especially in communities of color have demonstrated that the current punitive approaches through the criminal justice system have not worked to end gun violence. Instead, they have fueled unsolved homicides cases, mass incarceration, and greater racial disparities throughout the criminal legal system. We need new approaches NOW! We have met with our SFDA Boudin re: this urgency with full transparency and I commend District Attorney Boudin for his leadership on this critical and urgent problem. Together, we must continue working with our Law Enforcement leaders on this crisis.”
District Attorney Boudin is committed to holding those who commit gun crimes accountable. The District Attorney’s Office has partnered with the San Francisco Police Department on efforts to combat gun violence and is working alongside numerous community-based organizations on interrupting gun violence. At the same time, District Attorney Boudin also recognizes that new approaches are desperately needed to prevent gun violence before it happens and to stop profiteering from the gun industry.
“We must use all of our tools to tackle head-on the growing crisis of guns on our street,” said District Attorney Boudin. “Today’s litigation seeks to aggressively confront this problem at the root and get these dangerous weapons off our streets.”
Rachel Marshall, (415) 416-4468 / Rachel.Marshall@sfgov.org
三藩市 — 今天，三藩市地區檢察官博徹思宣布，地檢署已對三家在加州製造和分銷鬼槍的集團公司提出民事訴訟。Keker, Van Nest & Peters, LLP 和 Giffords 防止槍械暴力法律中心是這宗開創性個案的共同顧問。
地檢官博徹思說：「今天我們直接挑戰那些負責把這類危險而不受管制武器帶到三藩市街道和整個加州的團夥。鬼槍對公眾安全構成嚴重威脅；這些無法追蹤的槍支很容易被兒童和被禁人士獲得。我們將追究負責其製造和分銷公司的責任。地檢署很榮幸能與 Keker, Van Nest & Peters 的全國最佳出庭律師，及 Giffords 法律中心的領導全國槍支訴訟和監管專家合作。我們將一起從源頭上應對槍械暴力流行的嚴重性。」
「Keker, Van Nest & Peters 很榮幸能與博徹思和地檢署合作發起這開創性的訴訟，以追究鬼槍製造商和零售商的責任。」Keker, Van Nest & Peters 的 John Keker 說：「被告製造和銷售危險武器而沒有核實消費者的購買槍械年齡或資格。這些非法行為容許不能合法購買武器的兒童和人士太容易獲得武器。我們期待與地檢署和 Giffords 法律中心持續合作，以防止加州的槍械暴力。」
「鬼槍現正湧入加州各地社區，人們因此而喪命。」Giffords 防止槍械暴力法律中心的訴訟總監 Hannah Shearer 說：「我們訴訟中的指名公司正在發放錯誤信息，並直接從這種暴力中獲利。他們的非法商業行為包括向未通過背景審查的加州居民出售鬼槍零件和套件。 他們也沒有向買家透露，任何製造鬼槍的人如果無法獲取序列號或提交自製手槍作安全測試，將會面臨刑事責任。這是時候讓這些魯莽的公司，對其無視聯邦和州府槍支法規和消費者保護法律而造成的死亡、暴力和刑事檢控負責了。」
通常被稱為「鬼槍」的槍支是無法追蹤、功能齊全、未經註冊的預先包裝以供購買者組裝槍械。亦稱為私人製造槍械 (PMF)，它們以套件形式出售，包含購買者在家組裝的所需組件。無數的 YouTube 視頻和互聯網網址可以指導消費者在家完成槍械組裝。組裝所需的工具很少，並可在一小時內完成 — 有時甚至更快。
近年三藩市內，與鬼槍相關的槍擊事件數量急劇增加。正如三藩市警察局局長施革 (William Scott) 告訴三藩市紀事報那樣，2020年與三藩市兇殺案相關而檢獲的槍支，接近一半是鬼槍 — 相比2019年只有 6%，這是驚人的增長數字。
根據三藩市警察局的數據，在2016年警方只檢獲6支鬼槍；但2020年則檢獲164支鬼槍 — 天文數字式增長超過2000%。截至2021年8月，三藩市犯罪鑑證實驗室已經處理超過150支鬼槍。當然，這些數字只能代表警方實際檢獲的那些鬼槍 — 但是未能反映三藩市內擁有和使用鬼槍的全部數量。
這個令人不安的趨勢與全加州和全國槍械暴力增加不謀而合，研究人員把這種增幅直接歸因於槍支的增加。在大規模槍擊事故中使用鬼槍的案例屢見不鮮，包括在加州。自殺死亡是10至34歲兒童和年輕成人的第二最常用死亡方式 — 研究顯示獲得槍支會顯著增加自殺風險。
鬼槍阻礙槍支罪案的調查和助長槍械暴力的循環。由於鬼槍沒有序列號和沒有銷售記錄，當此類槍支在罪案中被檢獲時，執法部門無法通過 ATF 或加州司法部提出對鬼槍的追查請求。
鬼槍的氾濫構成一個明顯的公眾安全問題。鬼槍公司不遵從聯邦和州府的銷售點和記錄保存要求；因此任何人皆可獲得鬼槍 — 即使他們不能合法地擁有或購買槍支，例如，由於犯罪歷史。沒有資格擁有槍支的人，獲得鬼槍只是用來射擊和殺人。
鬼槍亦會特別危險，因為它們是私下組裝，沒有經過法律要求的嚴格安全測試。 這些安全措施包括跌落安全測試，以確保槍支在跌落時不會意外發射；以及射擊測試，以確保武器可以多次發射而不會出現故障。缺乏這些安全測試措施只會增加這些武器構成的危險 — 包括對兒童。
地區檢察署、Keker, Van Nest & Peters 和 Giffords 法律中心發起的訴訟
地檢署聯同顧問 Keker, Van Nest & Peters 和 Giffords 防止槍械暴力法律中心，採取開創性行動對三家被告的指名公司提出訴訟：Blackhawk Manufacturing Group, Inc.; GS Performance, LLC; MDX Corporation; 和其餘未知的被告。為了提出這起訴訟，地檢官博徹思根據加州法律援引了他的民事權力 — 這是賦予地檢官以民事起訴違反法律公司的權力。此訴訟尋求罰款和禁令，禁止被告違反聯邦和州府槍械法例。
指稱被告們的商業行為違反《加州不公平競爭法》(“UCL”)，《商業和職業法》第 17200 條及以下，及《加州虛假廣告法》(“FAL”)，《商業和職業法》第 17500 條及以下。UCL 禁止在加州進行非法、不公平和欺詐的商業行為。鬼槍製造商和零售商沒有遵守合法的商業行為，及逃避管轄槍支製造、銷售和擁有的法律 — 旨在保護消費者和公眾安全的法律。此外，正如訴狀所述，鬼槍公司在其產品的合法性欺騙加州消費者。加州法律對槍支擁有和註冊有著許多要求，但訴狀指稱，鬼槍公司誤導消費者相信鬼槍是合法的，從而參與虛假廣告和欺詐性商業行為。
此訴訟進一步指稱鬼槍公司違反聯邦槍械管制法，該法例要求所有槍支上均有序列號，及要求所有槍支銷售均通過聯邦槍支許可證持有人執行，後者必須進行背景調查。它還指稱鬼槍公司違反加州槍支大會法，該法例明確要求私人槍支製造商向加州司法部申請序列號和完成背景調查來排除任何鬼槍漏洞。被告們還被指控違反《加州不安全手槍法》(“UHA”)，該法例要求任何在加州售出的手槍 — 包括鬼槍 — 必須符合既定的可靠性和安全標準 — 包括射擊測試和跌落安全測試。部分被告還被加控違反《加州槍支製造法》，該法例要求任何每年生產至少50支槍支的聯邦許可槍支製造商，必需領取加州槍支製造許可證，此許可證本身具有特定義務，包括刻上序列號數字。
地區檢察署，Keker, Van Nest & Peters 和 Giffords 防止槍械暴力法律中心發起的訴訟，表現了一種旨在結束槍械暴力的剛正新方法。民選官員和社區領袖皆讚揚這個行動。
「把槍械遠離街頭，對於打擊暴力至關重要。多年來，我們一直試圖從我們的社區中清除槍械；我們需要繼續聚焦在從想要造成他人傷害的人手中奪走其槍械的策略。我感謝地檢官博徹思為防止更多槍械進入我們社區方面，邁出的重要一步。」三藩市市參事會主席兼第 10 區市參事華頌善說：「起訴這些鬼槍製造商造成不負責任和無法彌補的傷害，將有助我們打擊槍械暴力和追究這些公司的責任。」
「作為一個失去我24歲小兒子 George C. Scott 和23歲侄兒的母親，一眾在本市和全國這場槍械暴力流行的無數母親、父親和家庭，及一名持續與在囚者爭取真正公義的行動者，我親身瞭解我們必須尋求創新持平理念來結束槍械暴力的迫切性。」Mothers in Change 創始人和 Brady United Against Gun Violence 主席 Mattie Scott 說：「數十年的上升槍械暴力，尤其在有色人種社區中，已表明現時通過刑事司法體系執行的懲罰觀念，並沒有對結束槍械暴力產生作用。適得其反地，它們助長了在整個刑事法律體系的懸而未決兇殺案件、大規模囚禁和更大型的種族差異。我們現在急需新的理念！我們與我們的三藩市地檢官博徹思會面：商談現時的迫切狀況和高透明度，我讚揚地檢官博徹思對這個關鍵而迫切問題的領導作用。我們必須團結一起，繼續與我們的執法先鋒合作以應對這場危機。”