As state and local authorities have waited for federal regulation, some have taken steps to regulate the sale of ghost guns.
In 2016, then-California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law that didn’t outlaw ghost gun kits but required anyone making a homemade firearm to have it serialized and to pass a background check — drawing the ire of gun advocates, including the Firearms Policy Coalition.
Eight states followed with their own laws, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, including Hawaii, New Jersey, New York and Washington.
Several cities, especially in California, also took action. The Los Angeles City Council passed an ordinance in November that bans the possession, sale or purchase of guns or major gun parts that don’t have serial numbers. The measure followed on the heels of similar bans in San Francisco and San Diego in September that went a step beyond the 2016 California law.
California passed an additional requirement in 2019 that will mandate background checks to buy the major parts used to make ghost guns, along with the previous serial number requirement. The law is set to go into effect this year.
Polymer80 has pushed back against some restrictions. The company is seeking to intervene in a lawsuit brought against ATF by parents of children who died in a ghost gun shooting at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, California, in 2019. (The case has been stayed pending release of ATF’s final ghost gun rule.) And the company successfully sued to overturn part of a ghost gun ban in its home state, Nevada.
It also hired Mark Barnes & Associates, a boutique law firm in Washington, D.C., in August 2020 to lobby federal decision-makers in its behalf, according to federal lobbying disclosures — although Barnes’ lobbying reports have revealed little actual lobbying for Polymer80 so far.
The lawsuit brought by Apolinar and Perez-Perez, the Los Angeles County deputies shot with a Polymer80 ghost gun in September 2020, is moving through the court system. Their lawyers declined to comment. Meanwhile, a separate lawsuit brought by the city, filed in February 2021, claims that Polymer80’s sales practices “make a mockery of federal and state background check laws.”
In an interview, City Attorney Mike Feuer said the city’s goal is to stop the flow of ghost guns into Los Angeles by blocking Polymer80 from selling its products in California, alleging that they they violate existing firearms regulations. (Polymer80 has denied that it is breaking the state law.)
“It’s too late when a crime is committed using a ghost gun,” Feuer said. “There’s been a victim at that point. I want to prevent those crimes in the first place by working to cut off the supply.”
Like many other major cities, Los Angeles has seen a marked increase in violence over the past two years. The Los Angeles Police Department reported 397 homicides last year, up from 355 in 2020 and 258 in 2019. Shootings rose from 1,337 in 2020 to 1,499 last year. The Los Angeles Police Department declined to comment, and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department did not respond to requests for comment.