A bill to redefine a firearm in California to include frames, receivers, and other precursor parts to reduce the number of ghost guns being built in the state passed in the Assembly Safety Committee on Wednesday.
Assembly Bill 1057, authored by Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Laguna Beach), would cause a loophole in emergency Gun Violence Restraining Orders (GVRO’s) to close due to the new definition, as ghost guns would be considered firearms under the bill and would allow them to be seized in cases in which the court deemed that a person is a threat to themselves or others.
Ghost guns, which are unfinished firearms that can be built from different parts to allow buyers to get around background checks and trackable serial numbers, have previously been the target of many laws in California in recent years. In 2018, a new law came into effect that added new requirements on people who assembled their own guns but who did not have a firearm manufacturer’s license. A follow-up law added the requirement that anyone building a homemade gun has to first receive a unique serial number from the California Department of Justice to apply to the gun. A much more broader law, passed in 2019 and currently set to take effect in July 2022, would require those who sell ghost gun parts to require background checks and other “red flag” hurdles first.
However, AB 1057 supporters hope that limiting possession of ghost guns by classifying them as firearms will lead to a reduction through more limiting factors and law enforcement being able to seize them when serving GVROs. According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), 30% of all guns recovered in California in 2019 were ghost guns, with Los Angeles law enforcement departments reporting an even higher figure of 41% during the same year.
Assemblywoman Petrie-Norris specifically cites the rise of mass shootings in the US as a major factor in wanting to reduce firearm loopholes and ghost gun ownership in California.
“The recent spike in deadly mass shootings across the country is a stark and tragic reminder that we must do everything in our power to close dangerous loopholes in California’s gun safety laws,” said the Assemblywoman on Wednesday in a statement. “Because they are unregulated and don’t require a background check, ghost guns are showing up at crime scenes across the country. By ensuring that ghost guns are part of Gun Violence Restraining Orders, AB 1057 will help protect our communities from these deadly DIY weapons that look and kill like any other gun.
“Right now, when law enforcement go to someone’s house, they can confiscate regular guns but they cannot confiscate ghost guns even when they know someone is really, really dangerous. If it looks like a gun, and shoot like a gun, it’s a gun. Closing this loophole is simple common sense.”
Bipartisan support, some opposition to AB 1057
Supporters of the bill, which include prominent gun control groups such as the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence echoed Assemblywoman Petrie-Norris’ words on Wednesday.
“California’s Gun Violence Restraining Order (GVRO) law has enjoyed broad bipartisan support. In emergency situations, it is clear that dangerous individuals should not have access to a deadly weapon, and it is inexcusable that there remain loopholes in the law that allow them to possess ghost gun kits and parts that can easily be assembled into a firearm,” stated the Brady Campaign on Wednesday. “Brady is grateful to Assemblymember Petrie-Norris for introducing and championing this legislation to close such a loophole. This bill will make all Californians safer.”
Fellow lawmakers also backed AB 1057 along similar lines.
“When used properly, gun violence restraining orders are a powerful tool that can prevent mass shootings and save lives,” added Assemblyman Jesse Gabriel (D-Woodland Hills). “AB 1057 will help to close an unfortunate and deadly loophole so that GVROs can be used to their full potential.”
Despite AB 1057 passing the Assembly Public Safety Committee with bipartisan support, some opposition remains against the bill over second amendment rights.
“Redefining firearms like this is a tad worrying,” explained firearm safety instructor Lawrence O’Donnell to the Globe on Wednesday. “Parts need to be replaced sometimes, or some people want to make them more custom. Are you telling me that someone with a drawer full of parts is going to be accused of having several non-registered guns, simply for trying to repair something?”
“It’s good they’re keeping people safe. Any responsible gun owner will tell you that safety is the number one concern, especially for the people who own and use the weapon. But they need to word this right and go after the people who may intentionally hurt themselves or others and not go after people who simply want to maintain and repair weapons. Don’t go after people who are trying to be safe themselves.”