November 24, 2017 — Following a mass shooting that left six dead in Tehama County, California, carried out by a shooter prohibited from owning guns and charged with multiple crimes who made two assault weapons with parts ordered online, Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence asked two Internet Service Providers to take down websites for businesses that allow dangerous persons to avoid background checks and make their own assault weapons. These do-it-yourself guns are known as “ghost guns” because they lack serial numbers that are generally required under federal law, and are a critical tool for law enforcement.
In letters sent to Shopify, Inc., the web host for GhostGunner.net, and DreamHost Inc., the web host for GhostGuns.com, Giffords Law Center urged the Internet Service Providers to disable the two businesses’ websites, because they allow individuals who are legally barred from buying a firearm to buy materials and tools that allow them to assemble guns themselves.
Both Ghost Guns and Ghost Gunner sell tools and gun components that allow anyone to make semi-automatic handguns and assault weapons without passing the background checks that federal law requires licensed gun dealers to conduct. Ghost Gunner sells a machine and software that allows purchasers to manufacture assault weapons with the simple click of a button.
The firearms that are manufactured using parts and tools sold by the two companies cannot be traced by law enforcement because they lack serial numbers. And because the guns are illegal in multiple states, the two companies aid and abet violations of various laws, in violation of the Internet Service Providers’ Acceptable Use Policies and Terms of Service.
“People should not be able to make their own assault weapons and other guns when those individuals are dangerous and legally barred from buying guns,” said Robyn Thomas, Executive Director of the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. “Companies that are more worried about making money than the safety of the public or law enforcement officials sworn to protect them shouldn’t be given a platform to sell their products. It’s time to turn off the lights on these sites so these companies won’t be able to enable illegal gun trafficking or the next mass shooting.”
““The recent mass shooting in Northern California underscored how dangerous it is when people legally prohibited from owning guns can go online and buy do-it-yourself assault weapon kits from unaccountable companies with no background checks, and no questions asked,” said Adam Skaggs, Chief Counsel at Giffords Law Center. “But companies like Ghost Gunner and Ghost Guns are profiting from doing just that. The Internet Service Providers hosting their websites are contractually entitled to shut these dangerous websites down, and they can, and should, do so.”
The letters, sent on behalf of Giffords Law Center by their counsel at Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer, pointed out that:
The Internet Service Providers’ policies prohibit their customers from engaging in illegal activities and promoting illegal activities by consumers, and they allow the ISPs to shut down the websites they host at will
The ISPs should disable the websites, which sell deadly, unlawful products
Online purchases from the websites allows purchasers to avoid requisite background checks and to make firearms that cannot be traced by law enforcement
The websites’ products are illegal in multiple states, and aid and abet violations of state law by their customers
For nearly 25 years, the legal experts at Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence have been fighting for a safer America by researching, drafting, and defending the laws, policies, and programs proven to save lives from gun violence.