California sues US regulator in bid to deter 'ghost guns'

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FILE - In this Aug. 29, 2017, file photo, an ATF agent poses with homemade rifles, or "ghost guns," at an ATF field office in Glendale, Calif. California's attorney general is suing the Trump administration in an effort to crack down on so-called "ghost guns" that can be built from parts with little ability to track or regulate the owner. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Backed by the fathers of two slain children, California's attorney general sued the Trump administration on Tuesday in an effort to crack down on “ghost guns” that can be built from parts and make it difficult to track or regulate owners.

The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives doesn't consider the do-it-yourself kits to be firearms, so buyers don't have to undergo the usual background checks and in most states the guns are not required to have serial numbers.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra's lawsuit asks a federal judge in San Francisco to order the agency to change its policy, arguing that it violates the common definition of a firearm under federal law and that the agency's decision in 2006 to stop considering the parts as firearms was arbitrary and capricious.

Agency spokeswoman April Langwell said the ATF does not comment on pending litigation.

The lawsuit was called frivolous and “another outrageous example of Attorney General Becerra attacking law-abiding gun owners" by Brandon Combs, president of the Sacramento, California-based Firearms Policy Coalition that promotes gun-owners' rights.

Plaintiff Bryan Muehlberger said he had never heard of ghost guns before November, when his 15-year-old daughter, Gracie Anne Muehlberger, was one of two students killed with one at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita.

Student Nathaniel Berhow, 16, also wounded three other people before killing himself. Frank Blackwell, the father of 14-year-old Dominic Blackwell, the other slain student, also is a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

“Anyone, and I mean anyone, can buy these totally unregulated kits with just an internet connection and a credit card, and that’s how my daughter’s killer got his murder weapon," Muehlberger said.