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'Ghost guns' face rules under California bill

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The state Senate approved a bill Thursday that would require people who assemble homemade guns to register the weapons and acquire serial numbers before they could legally own them.

SB808 by Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, is intended to combat the spread of undetectable guns that can fall into the hands of people who are legally barred from owning firearms under state and federal laws.

De Leon says so-called "ghost guns" are "built at home and put together like Lego," often using parts that are widely available without a background check and using videos posted online.

He cites the case of John Zawahri, who authorities said assembled his own military-style assault rifle and killed five people in Santa Monica in a June rampage, even after he was banned from legally buying a gun in California because of mental health issues.

The legislation does not seek to stop the growing production of such weapons, de Leon said. Rather, it updates California law to address a growing market, including weapons made on 3-D printers.

"It does not ban homemade guns. It simply holds these assembled guns at home to the same standard" as other weapons, de Leon said.

His bill would allow the manufacture or assembly of homemade weapons, but it would require the makers to first apply to the state Department of Justice for a serial number that would be given only after the applicant undergoes a background check. The number would have to be engraved on or otherwise permanently attached to the weapon within one day of its manufacture.

Sen. Joel Anderson, R-Alpine, opposed the legislation, saying it would impose new restrictions on law-abiding gun owners. He called it "just more minutiae. It's not solving a real problem."

De Leon's bill goes further than the federal government, which last month renewed for 10 years an existing ban on plastic firearms that can slip past metal detectors and X-ray machines.

He plans to amend the bill to require that the guns contain permanent pieces of metal that could be detected by X-ray machines and metal detectors, a proposal that was blocked in the federal legislation.

SB808 passed the Senate on a 21-9 vote and now heads to the Assembly.

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