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Ninth Circuit Hears Lawsuit Over ‘Ghost Guns’ as Pasadena Police Record Uptick in Seizures

Pasadena Police Department say the hard to track firearms are a growing problem

Published on Tuesday, January 12, 2021 | 2:11 pm
 
A 9mm, unserialized “ghost gun” recovered by police from a repeat felon at the end of a short pursuit in Pasadena on Sept. 4, 2020. (Credit: Pasadena Police Department)

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently heard arguments in a lawsuit involving 21 states, including California, hoping to block a plan that would transfer the regulation of ghost guns from the State Department to the Department of Commerce.

Ghost guns are unserialized and unregistered guns that can be cobbled together from different parts or 3D printed. The Pasadena Police Department and other agencies have said the firearms are a growing problem. 

The hard-to-track firearms have become a growing problem in many states. 

The Pasadena Police Department took 288 guns off the street in 2020. About 10 percent of the recovered weapons were ghost guns. 

On Aug. 15, police recovered a ghost gun at the scene of a fatal officer-involved shooting on North Raymond Avenue, near La Pintoresca Park.

In that incident, a police officer fatally shot Anthony McClain after McClain tried to flee during a traffic stop. The police officers said they saw the gun before one of the officers opened fire. McClain’s DNA was recovered from the weapon.

On Oct. 2, a traffic stop over an illegal U-turn in Pasadena resulted in the seizure of a ghost gun, several ounces of methamphetamine, stolen credit cards, and more than $180,000 in cash, police said. Two people were arrested.

On Oct. 9, a routine traffic stop on Navarro Avenue and Cedar Street led to the seizure of a loaded, unserialized ghost gun after two police officers stopped a car for a traffic violation and noticed an open container of alcohol. Two men were arrested in that case.

The federal government is appealing a preliminary injunction blocking the transfer of the regulations. 

According to Courthouse News, U.S. District Judge Richard Jones, a George W. Bush appointee, found the plan would allow unlimited distribution of the untraceable weapons.

The lawsuit claims that the change could lead to easier access of the files needed for 3D-printed guns — and lead to more criminals possessing the guns.

“As the agency’s specific findings in the record show, the proliferation of 3D gun files on the internet likely renders ineffective arms embargoes, export controls, and other measures used to restrict the availability of uniquely dangerous weapons sought by those seeking to commit acts of terrorism or other serious crime — implicates serious national security and public interests,” Jones wrote in the preliminary injunction. 

Jones’ order blocks the transfer while the lawsuit wends its way through the court.

In 2018, the State Department transferred control for some guns and semi-automatic and non-automatic firearms to the Department of Commerce.

The states say the government violated the Administrative Procedure Act because it didn’t notify the public before issuing the new regulations.

The city took 288 guns off the street in 2020. About 10 percent of the recovered weapons were ghost guns. 

On Aug. 15, police recovered a ghost gun at the scene of a fatal officer-involved shooting on North Raymond Avenue, near La Pintoresca Park.

In that incident, a police officer fatally shot Anthony McClain after McClain tried to flee during a traffic stop. The police officers said they saw the gun before one of the officers opened fire. McClain’s DNA was recovered from the weapon.

On Oct. 2, a traffic stop over an illegal U-turn in Pasadena resulted in the seizure of a ghost gun, several ounces of methamphetamine, stolen credit cards, and more than $180,000 in cash, police said. Two people were arrested.

On Oct. 9, a routine traffic stop on Navarro Avenue and Cedar Street led to the seizure of a loaded, unserialized ghost gun after two police officers stopped a car for a traffic violation and noticed an open container of alcohol. Two men were arrested in that case.

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