California Attorney General Sues to Force ATF to Amend Its ‘Ghost Gun’ Ruling

The California AG is looking to outlaw 80-percent receivers and frames.

The California attorney general filed a lawsuit in federal court this week to force the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) to categorize 80-percent receivers and frames as firearms under the Gun Control Act of 1968.

California AG Xavier Becerra filed the suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. He was joined by the anti-gun group Giffords Law Center and two fathers of students killed in the 2019 shooting at Saugus High School.

“We are suing the ATF over its interpretation what qualifies as a firearm,” Becerra said on a call with reporters Tuesday. “ATF allows these guns to go unchecked despite having the authority under the Gun Control Act to regulate them.” 

Becerra wants the ATF to re-categorize 80-percent lower receivers or “ghost guns” as full firearms, which would subject their purchase to the same background check and serialization requirements as other firearms. He’s asking for a court order nullifying the ATF’s classification of an unfinished rifle or pistol frame as not a firearm, and a finding that its guidance on 80% receivers and frames is “arbitrary and capricious.”

SEE ALSO: Everytown Files Lawsuit Against ATF Seeking to Outlaw ‘Ghost Guns’

Right now, 80-percent receivers are not considered firearms by the ATF because users must drill out portions of the receiver before they can be used. The ATF has determined repeatedly that these products do not count as firearms under the Gun Control Act of 1968, and that they are not required to have serial numbers.

Becerra wants to force the ATF to change its ruling, citing the supposed proliferation of “ghost guns” being used in homicides and mass shootings.

“Ghost guns are quickly becoming the weapon of choice for illegal gun traffickers and those—like organized criminal gangs and mass murderers—who seek to bear arms not for lawful means, but rather to engage in criminal activity and acts of violence,” the suit states. “And most sellers have done little to dissuade prohibited people from buying ghost guns and have even actively encouraged such sales, leaving their customers and the public—not the sellers—to bear the consequences.”

Much of Becerra’s case rests on the idea that “ghost guns” can be assembled in minutes and are therefore firearms because they can “readily” be converted to firearms, per the Gun Control Act.

SEE ALSO: Congressmen Introduce Bill Banning ‘Ghost Gun’ Milling Machines

“If you can assemble Ikea furniture you can probably assemble a ghost gun. And you can probably do it faster,” said Hannah Shearer, litigation director for the Giffords Law Center.

This temporal test was rejected by the ATF around 2006 in favor of a “solidity test.” Eighty-percent lowers and frames are not firearms, the ATF decided, because the fire control area is completely solid or unmachined.

Becerra’s case is extremely similar to another lawsuit filed by Everytown for Gun Safety in August of this year. Everytown makes an identical argument to Becerra’s and urges the court to force the ATF to revise its categorization of 80-percent lower receivers.

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About the author: Jordan Michaels has been reviewing firearm-related products for over four years and enjoying them for much longer. With family in Canada, he’s seen first hand how quickly the right to self-defense can be stripped from law-abiding citizens. He escaped that statist paradise at a young age, married a sixth-generation Texan, and currently lives in Waco. Follow him on Instagram @bornforgoodluck and email him at jordan@gunsamerica.com.

{ 29 comments… add one }
  • Fred Brown October 25, 2020, 9:32 pm

    I am seriously beginning to believe all the earthquakes in CA have either: a) released gases into the atmosphere that have caused CA residents brains to dissolve into mush, or b) generated electromagnetic pulses which have had the same effect. CA residents, and especially their politicians, seem to believe the Constitution of The United States does not apply to them and they can pass “laws” countermanding the freedoms GUARANTEED, not granted, by said document! Especially in reference to our 2nd Amendment rights.

  • James October 8, 2020, 1:26 pm

    I’m on board for educated gun control (best example I’ve heard is creating a repository of people who have commited violent crimes, and not allowing them to purchase anything gun-related whatsoever, and allowing normal people to purchase anything. That satisfies the wants of both sides), but it is simply a game of cat and mouse when it comes to your typical legislation. If you ban 80% frames, then the next think will just be 90% and so forth. The whole concept of gun control needs to be completely reevaluated.

  • etph October 3, 2020, 1:24 pm

    He has the mindset of the largest demographic in Los Angeles. Rather than adopt the fundamental culture, people like him adapt to it. He seems more beholden to the leftists and the demographic that primarily comes from or has ties to the countries they arrived from and negative traits they supposedly left behind. Why come to the US to make it into another dangerous dump that you obviously are fleeing from? It’s not much different to what’s been happening in Europe with the immigrants who refuse to become part of the mainstream culture. I’m hearing reports of people in upper and middle-class neighborhoods having to surrender and capitulate to the criminals at gunpoint without a fight. The police there will pretend to help but will send people on a wild goose chase to, for example, find their stolen vehicle that was supposedly found at a certain location. This actually happened to my mother’s friend’s neighbor who heard a gunshot outside her residence and then screeching tires. Her neighbor’s daughter was shot in the shoulder as she was pulling out of her garage and gate to go to work as a pharmacist, but instead forever lost her new car but not her life. What kind of society is it where you can’t even trust those who are supposed to uphold the law? Most people there have already relinquished their basic rights to safety and self defense. When a man with a gun or several men with guns approach people to steal from them, citizens quickly surrender everything. Guns are perceived as evil and people believe that only criminals and “LE” should have them. Thus, it’s better to live among criminals, LE included, than to fight for your basic right to defend and protect your family. This is mental slavery and cowardice! That idiot AG wants to continue that stupidity in the L.A. area because he knows very well that the demographic there are enslaved to big government, who will always “give” (i.e. welfare) their slaves what they thing they need and want. Keep them needy and frightened to maintain mental slavery.

  • Clint October 3, 2020, 10:54 am

    Show me the money, or in this case, show me the actual numbers where ‘ghost’ guns are being used in crime, just don’t grab something out of thin air. The problem with all liberal speak, is that they have no use for facts and truth, they say ghost gun crime is rampant, therefore it is. When you filter down firearm related deaths in this country to the ones actually used in a crime involving death, it numbers in the 5000 a year range in a country of 330 million, but firearm crime is rampant and we need more gun control. You filter out the firearm death rate of all the primary liberal Democrap run metropolises in the country, and the US drops to the bottom of the list worldwide for gun crime. The problem of course, is not the weapon, it is the lies spewed out by the left in order to secure removal of more freedoms and placing the power in their hands and their coming jack booted henchmen. Let’s hope that all those new firearm owners vote to preserve their 2A freedom, and all those who have bought new travel trailers (inventories are low to non-existent nationwide due to covid and fear of motels) remember a vote for a Democrap is a vote for the Green New Deal, and $10 a gallon gas or no gas when they take the US from an energy exporter to an energy importer again.

    • James October 8, 2020, 1:29 pm

      I think one of the problems is polymer 80% frames are being categorized in the same category as stolen firearms with serials filed off. About as logical as considering suicide as “gun violence” or “rope violence”.

  • Michael J October 3, 2020, 2:26 am

    Becerra is a dangerous idiot with unlimited power and resources of the California tax payers.

    His systematic elimination of the 2nd Amendment in California is nearly complete.

    Background checks, 10 day waiting periods, fee based simpleton firearms test, 10 round magazines, approved handgun roster/new micro-stamp elimination of already approved guns, AR/AK restrictions, ammunition background checks/prohibited interstate purchases, prohibited firearms parts, red flag, 21 to buy, gun free zones and those scary ghost guns. This tyrant is a menace to a free society who succeeded Kamala Harris. Always a damn democrat with a guaranteed governor stamp of approval.

  • Michael J October 2, 2020, 10:58 pm

    Becerra is a dangerous idiot with unlimited power and resources of the California tax payers.
    His systematic elimination of the 2nd Amendment in California is nearly complete.
    Background checks, 10 day waiting periods, fee based simpleton firearms test, 10 round magazines, approved handgun roster/new micro-stamp elimination of already approved guns, AR/AK restrictions, ammunition background checks/prohibited interstate purchases, prohibited firearms parts, red flag, 21 to buy, gun free zones and those scary ghost guns. This tyrant is a menace to a free society who succeeded Kamala Harris. Always a damn democrat with a guaranteed governor stamp of approval.

  • Rollin L October 2, 2020, 3:30 pm

    One thing we need to do is get away from this terminology of percentages. ATF has made it clear that terms like “80%” are industry terms, not something ATF uses or gives credibility to. To them, it’s a gun or it’s not a gun. Period. What have have done now is hand the term over to the Becerras and Giffords who use it against us. The makers of unfinished firearms need to change the terminology, then announce they no longer manufacture “80%” receivers.

  • Andrew Ling October 2, 2020, 12:01 pm

    Ridiculous and idiotic. How on earth did we get here?
    Blocks can fire bullets? Them forks need to eat termites with sticks.

  • Jim Mason October 2, 2020, 11:44 am

    Ghost logic is less than 80% logical.

  • Fal Phil October 2, 2020, 11:16 am

    Stupid gun grabbers. So what if the ATF classifies 80% receivers as firearms? Then the industry will go to 70%. And what then? As the percentage approaches zero percent, are they going to classify blocks of aluminum and plastic as firearms?

    When will they realize that modern firearms are old tech and can be created with hand tools? Heck, the Pathans build pretty good machine guns without the use of electric tools.

  • Kenneth Ragan October 2, 2020, 9:09 am

    We have the right to build our own firearms…period….and serial numbers are not allowed. There is no such thing as an 80% receiver to the ATF……this is a made up term just like ghost guns.

  • Dr Motown October 2, 2020, 8:25 am

    Where’s the evidence that “80% firearms” are now the guns of choice for career criminals and gang-bangers?

    • Bad Penguin October 2, 2020, 9:52 am

      There isn’t any evidence criminals use ghost guns. Its a made up statistic that no one challenges.

      There are 3 kinds of lies in this world. Lies, Damned Lies and statistics. – Mark Twain

  • David Welsh October 2, 2020, 8:10 am

    Becerra is a communist, just like the other China tools serving in the Calipornia government.

  • RICK October 2, 2020, 8:06 am

    “If you can assemble Ikea furniture you can probably assemble a ghost gun. And you can probably do it faster,” said Hannah Shearer, litigation director for the Giffords Law Center. I’ll give you an unmilled 80% lower, let me know how long it takes you to make it fire…

    • perlcat October 2, 2020, 9:47 am

      While we really can’t help it that liberal gun grabbers are morons that have extreme difficulty assembling IKEA furniture, the fact that they cannot follow simple instructions and learn to do simple tasks like turn a hex key goes a long way towards explaining why they are liberals, and why they are gun grabbers. For them, guns are dangerous, because they cannot understand simple instructions like “point the end with the hole in it away from your fool head”. They need a world with velcro shoes, short buses, and rubber rooms to protect themselves from themselves. Me, I just figure that Darwin works in mysterious ways.

  • Darrell Martin October 1, 2020, 11:08 pm

    For the ATF to be to determine “What is”, it must first become a Legislative Branch of the Government. I keep telling people : ATF has NO LEGISLATIVE POWER! When is ATF going to reveal to the public they have no such power to be able to determine anything EXCEPT what has been passed into law by the elected law makers?

    • Michael October 3, 2020, 7:26 pm

      You’re exactly right.

  • Kenneth A Culley October 1, 2020, 9:46 pm

    “Ghost guns are quickly becoming the weapon of choice for illegal gun traffickers and those—like organized criminal gangs and mass murderers—who seek to bear arms not for lawful means, but rather to engage in criminal activity and acts of violence,” the suit states.” We need examples. Who are these illegal gun traffickers and mass murderers? This is just a wild claim, stated with no support. And as was stated before, we’ve got a CRIMINAL problem, not a law abiding firearm owner.

  • Steve October 1, 2020, 9:33 pm

    So what what exactly is it these folks suing the ATF want them to do? Yes, of course the 80% number is arbitrary, but what are they proposing the law should be? At what point does a hunk of steel or polymer become a gun in their opinion? 50%? 25%? 10%?

  • JonsOn October 1, 2020, 11:23 am

    Becerra is nothing more than a leftist hack. The guy cares not about the people of California. He has done everything he can to usurp the constitution. People like this don’t belong in government they belong in a prison.

  • kimberpross October 1, 2020, 9:50 am

    How many times have “Ghost Guns” been used in crime? What crime stopping power does a firearm with a serial number have? The FBI says 95+% of the firearms used to commit crimes are stolen. The serial number traces back to the original purchaser. What value does having the serial number information have in stopping crime? Looks like nothing…. All these actions are after the fact findings in the investigation that leads nowhere. It gives the gun grabbers a list to confiscate and a name of someone to prosecute for allow their weapon to be stolen.

  • Greg Castora October 1, 2020, 9:00 am

    Personally, if I were the ATF, I would have these bozos gather their best firearm assemblers and bring them to court. I would present them with ALL of the pieces and parts to make a firearm, including an 80% lower, and have them assemble a working firearm before the court. They would lose instantly

  • Paul October 1, 2020, 8:03 am

    Well Kalifornia quit letting the criminals run amok! Do something about them instead of punishing the law abiding. Also quit wasting taxpayer money for your own nefarious purposes and control of the rest of the country!!! The biggest problems are your democratic strongholds the rest of the country seems to not have your problems.

  • Mark N. October 1, 2020, 1:42 am

    “Arbitrary and capricious” is an extremely difficult standard to meet. It means, in essence, that the regulation is not rational. The current regulations, which recognize that it takes hours to mill a lower receiver of an AR.

  • Chris Nelon September 30, 2020, 11:19 pm

    The gun of choice for criminals! Do not put the constitutional right of law abiding citizens into the same group. A bunch of sheep is all you are!

  • Linkman September 30, 2020, 9:13 pm

    OK Mr. Smart Attorney General: at what point does something need to be considered a firearm? You say at 80% it’s a firearm. Is a bunch of aluminum cans inside a box a firearm? Because I would consider that to be around the 5% level. How about a solid block of steel or aluminum? That is somewhere around the 15% mark. Does that car you drive need to be licensed and registered as a firearm now? It can be chopped up and reforged and machined into a whole lot of guns.

    • Zupglick October 1, 2020, 10:56 am

      This is what happens when Lawyers try to control technology.

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