San Francisco is in the process of finalizing the state’s first ban on untraceable guns. <ins>(Courtesy SFPD)</ins>

San Francisco is in the process of finalizing the state’s first ban on untraceable guns. (Courtesy SFPD)

SF moves forward with first California ‘ghost gun’ ban

Facing a spike in shootings, San Francisco is advancing the first ban in California on the untraceable firearms known as “ghost guns” that increasingly are turning up in the hands of criminals.

The Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to approve legislation Tuesday from Supervisor Catherine Stefani that prohibits the sale or possession of ghost guns in The City.

The weapons, bought in parts online that can be put together at home, pose a problem for law enforcement because they lack a serial number which can be traced back to an owner or seller.

They’ve also become the “weapon of choice” for those prohibited from owning firearms, because ghost guns can be purchased without a background check, Stefani said before the vote.

California currently requires the person buying a ghost gun to apply for a serial number with the California Department of Justice and affix the digits to the gun after assembly.

But Stefani said it’s not enough.

“We have to take a step here in San Francisco to say these guns are causing way too much harm in our communities and it’s time that we do something about them,” Stefani said.

The legislation will make possessing or selling a ghost gun in San Francisco a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and jail time, with some exceptions.

Stefani introduced the legislation in May after police said the weapons were commonly being found at crime scenes and contributing to the rise in shootings, The Examiner previously reported.

Police have been recovering more ghost guns every year in The City. Police seized just six ghost guns in all of 2016, compared to 115 in the first half of 2021, according to police.

Shootings have also been going up. Police data shows there have been 151 gunshot victims in 2021 as of Aug. 29, compared to 85 at the same period in 2020.

Stefani’s ban isn’t the only legislation taking aim at ghost guns. A state law from 2019 is expected to go into effect next July requiring sellers to be licensed and run background checks on buyers.

Stefani said other jurisdictions are similarly moving forward with ghost gun bans of their own, including Los Angeles, San Diego, Oakland, Berkeley, Richmond and San Mateo.

District Attorney Chesa Boudin has also recently attempted to address the problem by filing a lawsuit against ghost gun manufacturers and distributors alleging unlawful business practices.

“It’s extremely unfortunate that we have to continue to piecemeal gun reform in the state and quite frankly in the country,” said Board of Supervisors President Shamann Walton, one of the supervisors who supported the legislation. “We definitely need comprehensive gun reform.”

The board is expected to vote on the legislation one final time before adoption.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated. The original version incorrectly stated the origins of the lawsuit against “ghost gun” manufacturers. District Attorney Chesa Boudin led the action.

mbarba@sfexaminer.com

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