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California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday signed a bill that will allow people to sue distributors of illegal assault weapons, parts to build them, .50 caliber rifles and guns without serial numbers. 

The legislation is modeled after Texas’ controversial anti-abortion law, which allows citizens to sue anyone who provides or assists with abortion services. While California’s gun law will be overturned if Texas’ abortion law is, advocates say it could help save lives, particularly for victims of crimes committed with “ghost guns.”

In April, President Joe Biden announced a series of “basic common-sense” federal regulations intended to target untraceable firearms known as ghost guns. 

Here’s what to know about ghost guns:.” 

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What is a ghost gun? 

  • Ghost guns are guns without serial numbers that don’t require typical background checks for purchase and are largely untraceable, making it difficult to find perpetrators who use them to commit crimes.

How are they made?

Because of technological advances, some of these guns, also known as privately made firearms, can be made from home with do-it-your-self firearms kits, stand-alone parts, or 3D printers, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives 

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How many are there?

  • The number of ghost guns found at crime scenes nationwide has increased over the last several years, according to the ATF. More than 23,900 suspected privately made firearms were recovered at crime scenes from 2016 to 2020, including 325 homicides or attempted homicides. 

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Why are they dangerous?

  • Because of their untraceable nature, ghost guns might attract people who can’t purchase guns legally, like felons or other bad actors, according to Nick Suplina, managing director for law and policy at gun violence group Everytown for Gun Safety.
  • “You have untraceable, unserialized firearms that exist completely outside of the regulatory scheme of federal and state law,” Suplina previously told USA TODAY. “People who are prohibited from owning firearms under federal or state law have ready access to make their own untraceable firearms, and that’s very dangerous.”

How are they federally regulated?

  • The series of regulations in April on ghost guns was in the works for almost a year and clarify that the unfinished parts sold in the do-it-yourself kits, like handgun frames or long gun receivers, qualify as firearms under federal law. 
  • That means commercial manufacturers of the kits must be licensed and must add serial numbers on the parts. Plus, commercial sellers of the kits have to become licensed and will be required to run background checks on potential buyers. 
  • “These guns are weapons of choice for many criminals,” Biden said in April at a Rose Garden ceremony attended by victims and families of gun violence. “We are going to do everything we can to deprive them of that choice and, when we find them, put them in jail for a long, long time.”

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Do any states regulate them?

  • Yes. Eleven states, including Illinois, California and New York, have regulations on ghost guns in place intended to curb their use, according to Everytown.

Federal regulations: Amid rise of gun violence, Biden unveils ‘basic common sense’ regulations targeting ghost guns

How does California’s law relate to them? 

  • Because the law allows people to sue distributors of guns without serial numbers, it could help combat the untraceable ghost guns. 
  • The new law “will make it easier for victims of ghost gun violence, like me, to help enforce our gun laws,” said Mia Tretta, who was shot in Santa Clarita during a 2019 attack at Saugus High School and is now a volunteer with Students Demand Action.

Contributing: Associated Press



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