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Judge tosses out gun owners lawsuit seeking to block San Diego 'ghost gun' ordinance

This Nov. 27, 2019, file photo shows "ghost guns" on display at the headquarters of the San Francisco Police Department in San Francisco.
Haven Daley / AP
This Nov. 27, 2019, file photo shows "ghost guns" on display at the headquarters of the San Francisco Police Department in San Francisco.

A federal judge Wednesday denied a request by local gun owners to block San Diego's recently signed ordinance banning so-called "ghost guns" in the city.

The lawsuit filed last month in San Diego federal court, hours after Mayor Todd Gloria signed the ordinance, sought to block enforcement of the ban prohibiting the possession, purchase, sale, receipt and transportation of non-serialized, unfinished frames and receivers, and non-serialized firearms, all of which are commonly known as ghost guns.

The guns, also known as "do-it-yourself guns," are homemade, personally manufactured firearms that do not have commercial serial numbers. They are untraceable due to the lack of identifying markings and therefore can evade state and federal regulations that apply to firearms such as background checks.

The Eliminate Non-serialized Untraceable Firearm — or E.N.U.F. — Ordinance goes into effect Saturday.

The lawsuit filed on behalf of the Firearms Policy Coalition, San Diego County Gun Owners PAC and San Diego residents James Fahr, Desiree Bergman and Colin Rudolph, alleges the ban violates the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding San Diegans.

"The right of individuals to self-manufactured arms for self-defense and other lawful purposes is part and parcel of the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms and an important front in the battle to secure fundamental rights against abusive government regulations like San Diego's unconstitutional ban," said Adam Kraut, the coalition's senior director of legal operations.

U.S. District Judge Cynthia Bashant issued a written ruling denying the plaintiffs' request for a preliminary injunction in the matter, stating that San Diegans can still acquire self-manufactured guns that are serialized and purchased from licensed sellers.

Bashant wrote, "the ordinance does not completely prohibit, as plaintiffs suggest, the right to possess frames and receivers necessary (to) create one's own firearm, but rather restricts the self-manufacturing of firearms using unfinished frames and unfinished receivers only."

Bashant also wrote that the ordinance is a reasonable measure "for achieving the city's objectives of decreasing the threat that ghost guns pose to the city's stated substantial and important interests. In so holding, this court observes that it joins other courts in concluding that broad regulation of non-serialized firearms fit closely with governments' interests in crime prevention and investigation."

The ordinance authored by City Councilwoman Marni von Wilpert came in response to a reported increase in the proliferation of ghost guns in the city, and closely followed a deadly shooting in the Gaslamp Quarter that police allege was committed with a ghost gun. Authorities allege the suspected shooter was prohibited from possessing firearms, a common denominator among nearly all those caught with ghost guns, according to police.

San Diego police say that the number of ghost guns retrieved by law enforcement has risen steadily each year, with 2021 already surpassing the number of ghost guns impounded by police in all of 2019 and 2020. The department says ghost guns accounted for nearly 20% of all firearms seized by police this year.

Earlier this week, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 in favor of developing an ordinance to ban ghost guns countywide.

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