Sighting the Homemade Gun Threat


Last week, Law Center Executive Director Robyn Thomas and Michael McLively, one of our staff attorneys, published an article, “Sighting the Homemade Gun Threat” in the Daily Journal. Outlining two potential gun laws, Senate Bill 199 and Senate Bill 808, which Governor Brown signed and vetoed respectively, the article discusses the dangers of homemade guns and the impending threat of 3-D printed guns as they gain popularity. Originally published in both print and online, here is the article shared in full.

Sighting the Homemade Gun Threat

Gov. Jerry Brown made headlines last week by signing Assembly Bill 1014, a bill that will establish an innovative “Gun Violence Restraining Order” procedure in California. On the same day, two lesser-known bills, Senate Bill 199 and Senate Bill 808, were signed and vetoed by the governor, respectively, without generating much notice. Despite their relatively low profile, these bills deserve our attention as they provide interesting insights into some of the  critical gun issues we’ll be facing in California looking forward.

The Serious Danger of Homemade Guns

Last Tuesday, Brown vetoed SB 808, which was an initial attempt to regulate the serious threat posed by homemade firearms. The bill would have required all such guns to be registered with the California Department of Justice and given a serial number.

This would have been a small step in the right direction by giving state authorities a better idea of just how many homemade guns are out there, but much more needs to be done in order to effectively nip this growing menace in the bud. Brown’s veto of this bill provides an opportunity to revisit this issue afresh and to reconsider the best way to properly address this problem in 2015, before it is too late.

Homemade firearms come from two main sources: the assembly of what are known as “partial receivers,” and 3D printing. Each presents its own set of unique problems and concerns.

Partial Receivers

A partial receiver is a partially finished metal component that holds the basic mechanisms that allow a gun to operate. Partial receivers are not regulated federally or at the state level. They can be purchased without a background check and turned into a fully functioning firearm with a relatively cheap and simple mechanical process that takes only one to seven hours to complete.

Partial receivers provide a way for mass-murderers and other criminals to skirt California’s otherwise strong gun laws, including mandatory background checks and the state’s prohibition on assault weapons. Using a partial receiver allows a person to build a functional assault rifle in a matter of hours. A recent and devastating shooting in Santa Monica highlights this danger all too well. John Zawahri failed a gun-purchase background check before deciding to buy an unfinished receiver and assembling his own assault rifle, which he then used in a terrible attack that left five dead, including Zawahri.

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NYSBA Journal Includes Our Guide to Strengthening Gun Laws in New York

The New York State Bar Association devoted the summer 2012 issue of its Government, Law and Policy Journal to an in-depth discussion of gun laws, public health, and public safety, and invited the Law Center, as well as other gun violence prevention organizations, public health experts, elected officials, and scholars, to contribute to the conversation. We are pleased to share our contribution, which analyzes the current laws on the books in New York.

Our article, entitled “Regulating Guns in New York: Existing State Laws and How They Could Be Strengthened,” focuses on six key legislative approaches to preventing gun violence that New York should adopt. For each approach, the article details New York’s existing law, or lack thereof, recommends how the law should be changed, and presents examples of relevant existing laws in other states and New York City.

Recent polling confirms that a strong majority of New Yorkers support limiting the number of handguns an individual can buy to one a month and strengthening the state’s laws regulating firearm sales, two of the critical issues that we discuss in our article.

This article is reprinted with permission from Government, Law and Policy Journal, Summer 2012, Vol. 14, No. 1, published by the New York State Bar Association, One Elk Street, Albany, NY 12207.

The Truth About the Fast and Furious Scandal

The Truth About the Fast and Furious Scandal
Katherine Eban, Fortune, June 27, 2012

An important, in-depth investigation into the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (ATF) Fast and Furious program, a group of Phoenix, Arizona-area gun trafficking cases under ATF’s Project Gunrunner.  Project Gunrunner is a national initiative of ATF aimed at reducing U.S.-Mexico border drug and gun trafficking.

While most media stories have focused on the allegation that ATF let traffickers “walk” with guns – intentionally allowing criminal suspects to traffic firearms in the hope that the guns or the illegal possessor might lead law enforcement to more serious criminal activity – Fortune magazine’s investigation reveals that ATF never intentionally allowed guns to fall into the hands of Mexican drug cartels, contrary to the misinformation being disseminated by the gun lobby and those opposed to the Obama Administration.  The greatest problems with Fast and Furious have been ATF’s lack of resources to enforce federal laws, and convincing federal prosecutors that there are sufficient grounds to seize guns and arrest straw purchasers, cases made more difficult because of notoriously weak federal and state gun laws.

Louisiana On Its Way to Passing Strongest Pro-Gun Law in U.S.

Louisiana On Its Way to Passing Strongest Pro-Gun Law in U.S.
Ashley Portero, International Business Times, May 25, 2012

Louisiana recently passed legislation that would amend the state constitution to remove language specifically allowing the state to regulate concealed weapons, and provide that the right to keep and bear arms is “fundamental and shall not be infringed.”  The proposed amendment – which now must be adopted by the voters of Louisiana – also takes the highly unique step of enshrining in the state constitution a higher standard of proof for determining the constitutionality of any law that may restrict Louisiana residents’ ability to own and carry guns.

Trayvon Martin Tragedy Reverberates in Nevada

Trayvon Martin Tragedy Reverberates in Nevada
Paul Takahashi, Las Vegas Sun, April 11, 2012

In the aftermath of the Trayvon Martin shooting tragedy in Florida, many states rethink their own “shoot first” laws, and communities struggle with the racial and public safety implications of such laws and their consequences.  This article chronicles a forum held at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas that attempts to make sense of the shooting – and the state’s “shoot first” law.