Newsom signs bill opening up ghost gun manufacturers to lawsuits

Saugus High senior Mia Tretta introduces Gov. Gavin Newsom just before he signs a bill designed to mitigate the illegal proliferation of ghost guns.
Saugus High senior Mia Tretta introduces Gov. Gavin Newsom just before he signs a bill designed to mitigate the illegal proliferation of ghost guns. Photo courtesy of Gov. Gavin Newsom's office.

Just after being introduced Friday by Saugus High School shooting survivor Mia Tretta, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 1327, which is designed to make it easier for individuals to file lawsuits against sellers who violate certain California firearm laws.  

The freshly signed SB 1327 will allow individuals to sue anyone who violates certain state firearm laws, including people who make or sell illegal assault weapons or ghost gun parts, and those who sell guns to underage buyers, according to legislators.   

Tretta, who was 15 years old at the time of the 2019 shooting, said that the new legislation would help mitigate the unlawful distribution of the type of unserialized, privately made firearm that wounded her, her classmates and took the lives of 14-year-old Dominic Blackwell and 15-year-old Gracie Muehlberger.  

“(SB 1327) will save lives by attacking the illegal ghost gun industry. It might’ve saved the life of my best friend,” said Tretta, referencing Blackwell during her introduction of Newsom. ”Today, we celebrate this win for the people of California, but we all know that there’s more work to be done. We can keep students, like me, safe in and out of the classroom.”      

Newsom said during his time at the podium it would allow California’s roughly 40 million residents to ”enforce the law of the state of California” and called it perhaps the “most impactful thing we have done in decades” regarding gun safety laws in the state. 

He also highlighted how the bill’s passage follows three other gun safety bills in recent weeks including Assembly Bill 1594, Assembly Bill 2571 and Assembly Bill 1621.  

“There’s no other state in the United States of America doing more on gun safety than this state,” said Newsom, later adding: “By standing up and standing tall and saying that we are going to do more than just identify a problem, reflect on how frustrating and vexing this problem is to solve; we’re not waiting for others to take action. We’re taking action here today.”  

In addition to having a statewide effect, the bill appeared to take on personal meaning for the governor, who became emotional after both he and Tretta recounted the first time they had met in the aftermath of the shooting. According to Newsom, Tretta was in the hospital, had just come out of surgery and yet she was “in such great spirits.”  

“And I didn’t understand it: She had literally just gotten out of surgery and she wanted me to send her teacher a pass…so she didn’t have to go back to class the next day,” Newsom joked after sharing a tearful hug with Tretta. “And it was just one of those indelible experiences but I never imagined it would be followed up with this moment today.” 

“He asked if there was anything he could do,” said Tretta. “Well sir, you are doing it.” 

Tretta has been a prominent voice in the national conversation on gun safety laws over the past three years, even being invited to the White House earlier this year to introduce President Joe Biden just before the commander in chief announced stricter federal standards for ghost gun manufacturers.  

Additionally, a California judge ruled last month that Tretta’s lawsuit against 1911 Builders, the ghost gun manufacturer whose firearm was used by the 16-year-old Nathaniel Berhow in the Saugus High shooting, could move forward to a jury trial.   

The lawsuit states that the online ghost gun manufacturer is believed to have sold Berhow’s father the firearm with no background check despite him being legally restricted from owning a gun due to his mental health history.   

Tretta’s lawsuit is the first in U.S. history to take a ghost gun kit manufacturer to trial.     

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