Ruling Marks First Case Against Ghost Gun Kit Seller to Advance to Trial Stage
Los Angeles, CA – Everytown Law, the nation’s largest group of litigators working full-time on advancing gun safety in the courts, released the following statements after a California state court rejected a motion from an online seller of kits and parts for homemade ghost guns — one of which was used in the 2019 shooting at Saugus High School — to dismiss a lawsuit brought by one of the survivors, ruling that the case will proceed to trial in January 2023. This lawsuit is the first case brought against a ghost gun kit seller to proceed to the trial phase.
The plaintiff, 16-year-old Mia Tretta, is represented by Everytown Law and by Walkup, Melodia, Kelly and Schoenberger, a San-Francisco-based firm. Since the shooting at Saugus High School in November 2019, Mia has become a dedicated gun violence prevention activist, even speaking at the White House on the day that President Biden announced a landmark rule regulating ghost guns.
“Ghost guns are guns, and if anyone needs proof of that, they can look at the scars that a ghost gun left on my stomach and my community,” said Mia Tretta, a volunteer with Students Demand Action who survived the Saugus High School shooting. “This ruling is an important step towards accountability for the shooting that changed my life and the lives of countless others forever.”
“This ruling brings us closer to holding 1911 Builders accountable for its negligent practices, which we allege contributed to the shooting at Saugus High School which killed two, wounded three including our client, and forever traumatized an entire community,” said Len Hong Kamdang, Director of Litigation Strategy and Trials at Everytown Law. “We’re looking forward to continuing to prove our case in court.”
“We are grateful for, but not surprised by the court’s decision to allow this righteous case to go to a jury. We remain in awe of Mia’s bravery and her quest to rid the streets of these dangerous ghost guns,” said Richard Schoenberger, partner at Walkup, Melodia and Schoenberger. “Most importantly, we believe the evidence at trial will prove once and for all that allowing these firearms to be sold without identifying serial numbers or background checks puts lives in danger.”
In the case, the lawsuit alleges that the shooter’s father was able to order the ghost gun kit used in the school shooting online from 1911builders.com with no background check, despite being prohibited from purchasing a firearm. Demonstrating the danger of ghost gun kits, the father purchased the kit after law enforcement removed 42 firearms from the home. While the defendant argued that it owed no duty to the general public to sell its kits in a reasonable manner, the court rejected this argument, holding that “it is entirely reasonable and foreseeable” that the customers of ghost gun kits buy them in order to evade gun safety laws.
ATF estimates that approximately 45,000 ghost guns have been recovered at crime scenes since 2016, with more than 19,000 ghost guns being recovered in 2021 alone. Local law enforcement agencies are also seeing staggering increases in rates of recovery — rising as much as 100 percent in the last three years in cities like San Diego and Los Angeles. Ghost guns have also been weapons of choice for militant right-wing extremists and people who otherwise would not be able to pass a background check. In recent months, the country has additionally seen an increase of gun fire on school grounds with ghost guns and recoveries of ghost guns on campuses. Schools in Arizona, New Mexico, Maryland, and Kansas have been devastated with these instances of gun fire on school grounds.
- Everytown Law and Walkup Melodia filed suit in December 2020 on behalf of Mia Tretta, who was wounded with a home-assembled firearm in the 2019 shooting at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, California high school. Two children were killed in the shooting, and three others were injured, including Mia, who was 15 at the time.
- The lawsuit names as a defendant the owner and operator of 1911builders, a website selling kits, frames, parts, and the tools to create a finished firearm over the internet with no background checks.
- The firearm used by the shooter was a 1911-style .45 caliber “Officer Frame” ghost gun. The seller named in the lawsuit sells this ghost gun kit on 1911builders.com, including the tools, and videos necessary for its full home manufacture.
- Neither 1911builders nor its operator has a federal firearms license.
- The lawsuit alleges that 1911builders was negligent and created a public nuisance. It asks the court to order the website to stop selling ghost gun frames, receivers or kits unless and until they are in compliance with state and federal law, and it also seeks damages.