The city of San Francisco was joined by the anti-gun group Giffords this week in filing a lawsuit against three companies that manufacture and sell 80-percent receivers, pejoratively known as “ghost guns.”
The suit alleges that Blackhawk Manufacturing Group, GS Performance, and MDX Corporation engage in fraudulent business practices and false advertising, and violate the federal Gun Control Act along with California’s gun laws.
San Francisco isn’t alone. The city of Los Angeles, the Biden administration, and Everytown for Gun Safety have all pursued their own separate litigation and rulemaking designed to run other “ghost gun” makers out of business.
“Guns are flooding our streets. Enough is enough. We must take action,” said San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin at a press conference. “Today we take a bold step towards protecting San Franciscans by getting dangerous guns off the streets.”
“Enough is enough.” Civil lawsuit being filed by @SFDAOffice @chesaboudin, in conjunction with @KekerLLP @GiffordsCourage against 3 CA-based “ghost gun” manufacturers that DA says are “flooding” streets w/illegal weapons pic.twitter.com/G5fYHJ9L7S— Henry K. Lee (@henrykleeKTVU) August 18, 2021
Anti-gun groups like Giffords have made “ghost guns” a central agenda item in recent months, and President Joe Biden’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives has proposed a new rule specifically outlawing the products.
“They’ve made it possible for anyone in the state to buy all the parts needed to build an untraceable firearm, no questions asked, and get it shipped in a convenient package with tools and instructions, like a piece of IKEA furniture,” said Hannah Shearer, a Giffords attorney, referring to 80-percent receiver manufacturers.
Boudin argues in the lawsuit that the companies “deceive California consumers about the legality of their products” by “misleading consumers into believing that ghost guns are legal.” Those alleged false advertising and fraudulent business practices violate California’s business laws, Boudin claims.
In addition (and in contradiction to ATF guidance on unfinished receivers thus far), Boudin argues that the companies violate the Gun Control Act by failing to stamp serial numbers onto their “firearms” and run background checks on customers.
This assumes, of course, that the products being sold are firearms, which is exactly the point of contention. As the Second Amendment Foundation outlines in this brief, the ATF has historically defined “firearm” in terms of the state of manufacture. If a product has not reached a certain state of manufacture, it is not considered a firearm.
Lawsuits like this one ask the ATF to change its definition. Rather than state of manufacture, they want the ATF to use a far more subjective standard that takes into account how “easily” or “readily” a product can be converted into a firearm.
Boudin said the companies are “flooding our streets with illegal firearms, with firearms that we know are being used to harm, to maim and to kill.”
Unlike Polymer80, which is a large company currently being sued by the city of Los Angeles, the companies named in the San Francisco lawsuit appear to be relatively small businesses based in California. GunsAmerica reached out to Blackhawk Manufacturing and MDX Corporation but did not immediately receive a response.
“Today we take a bold step towards protecting San Franciscans by getting dangerous guns off the streets,” says @chesaboudin of @SFDAOffice, suing 3 ghost gun makers. @KekerLLP and @GiffordsCourage part of the case as well. https://t.co/wbilgbClXp pic.twitter.com/SdB6MXA4QP— Henry K. Lee (@henrykleeKTVU) August 19, 2021