By Manny Otiko
SACRAMENTO — A new report released by the state Department of Justice warns of the danger of ghost guns — weapons that are assembled at home that have no serial numbers.
The weapons cannot be traced, making them a go-to for criminals who want to operate under the radar of law enforcement.
Over the past few years, the use of ghost guns has surged as people have been able to make them by producing gun parts with 3-D printers.
According to the Department of Justice report, from 2020-21, the use of ghost guns jumped by about 10,000, from 13,000 to 23,000 incidents. However, the use of ghost guns recently decreased to about 21,000 incidents per year.
Since 2016, Assemblyman Mike Gipson, D-Gardena, has been a vocal opponent of ghost guns, pointing to the many threats they pose. Gipson said many Americans are unaware of the danger of ghost guns.
This year, he authored Assembly Bill 1089, which bans the sale, purchase and possession of ghost gun technology.
The bill is currently under review in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
“Irresponsible companies have continued to sell machines that are explicitly designed as ghost gun manufacturing machines while deceptively claiming that these machines do not have the ‘primary’ purpose of manufacturing firearms,” according to a factsheet from Gipson’s office.
Existing law in California prohibits persons or corporations from manufacturing or assembling firearms that are not imprinted with a valid state or federal serial number.
“These companies fail to inform buyers that it is now unlawful in California to use these machines to produce firearms without a firearm manufacturer’s license. Additionally, while California law currently prohibits unlicensed manufacturers from using a 3-D printer to produce firearms, state law does not regulate the sale of 3-D printers that are designed or marketed as ghost gun manufacturing 3-D printers,” according to Gipson’s office’s.
Gipson’s 65th Assembly District, which covers cities such as Compton, Long Beach, Gardena and parts of Los Angeles, has been plagued with gun violence arising from both registered and unregistered firearms.
In many cases, people who can’t get legal guns because they don’t want to go through background checks, turn to ghost guns. And they are often used for nefarious purposes. Black and brown people are the main victims, according to Gipson.
“This is a health issue,” he said.
Ghost guns have been used in several California mass shootings. In 2022, David Mora, a father of three was banned from possessing a gun because of his criminal record. He later went on a gun rampage in Sacramento County, shooting his three children and a social worker. The gun was created with a 3-D printer.
According to Gipson, legislation on ghost guns was needed because technology is moving faster than the law.
“Technology has advanced faster than policies and bills,” he said.
Gipson isn’t the only legislator who has taken action on ghost guns.
Senate Bill 1327, authored by Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-San Fernando Valley, and signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, allows Californians to sue people who manufacture, transport and distribute ghost guns for up to $10,000.
“Our message to the criminals spreading illegal weapons in California is simple: you have no safe harbor here in the Golden State,” Newsom said in a speech at Santa Monica College, the site of a 2014 mass shooting that killed six people.
“As the U.S. Supreme Court expands the right to own guns, California continues to add new ways to restrict them. California will use every tool at its disposal to save lives, especially in the face of an increasingly extreme Supreme Court,” said Newsom in a press statement.
Manny Otiko is a reporter for California Black Media.