RANCHO TEHAMA, Calif. — The survivors of the Rancho Tehama shooting are suing the industry that they say allowed Kevin Neal to kill five people, and injure 18 others.
After a domestic violence arrest, Neal was banned from having guns. So he built his murder weapons -- two homemade AR-15 style rifles called ghost guns.
So-called ghost gun companies sell parts that can be assembled into these weapons.
As long as those parts are 80% complete or less... normal gun laws do not apply.
Gun control advocates like Jonathan Lowy, Chief Counsel and Vice President of Legal at Brady United. say the industry needs to be reigned in.
“This was a man who could not legally have a gun, should not have a gun," Lowy said about Kevin Neal. "He was under court orders that prevented him from possessing guns, and yet, he was able to get a number of guns, including 2 AR-15 style, military style assault weapons, through the ghost gun industry.”
Lowy represents the survivors of the Rancho Tehama shooting in a lawsuit filed in Southern California. It names about a dozen ghost gun companies.
Among the complaints: background checks are not required for buyers, and ghost gun parts are practically untraceable.
“They make a point to not include serial numbers or markings on their weapons, simply to make the ideal gun for a criminal. There’s no record. There’s no check. And it’s very difficult to trace," said Lowy.
Building a ghost gun is easier than it sounds. Numerous instructional videos can be easily found online. Customers can even buy jigs - frames with step-by-step instructions - that streamline the process even more.
Ghost guns are being used in a growing number of crimes. In San Francisco, for example, the number of ghost guns recovered in investigations spiked 600% from 2017 to 2019.
Sam Paredes, Executive Director of Gun Owners of California, says restricting these weapons will only hurt responsible gun owners, not criminals.
“In California, every criminal that uses a gun, every felon that uses a gun, is breaking the law. And they had no problem getting guns," he said.
He added that Americans have been building their own guns since the country was founded, and insisted that ghost guns only account for a small percentage of guns used in crimes.
In 2019, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms recovered 354,264 guns. About 10,000 were ghost guns, which stacks up to 3%.
In California, the number was slightly higher, at 6.4%.
People in Rancho Tehama are no strangers to guns. Some homeowners there even have shooting ranges in their backyards.
Brian White moved to town right after the shooting, to a home right next to where Neal used to live. When he learned about the shooting, he did what many others did. He invested in protection.
“Me and my mom were like ‘what the heck?’" he said. "So we went out and got guns and ammo, everything to make sure we’re safe.”
But for white, the idea of someone like Neal being able to make his own weapons is unsettling.
“I think it’s kind of crazy. People shouldn’t try to do things that they know nothing about," he said, "He could have hurt a lot more people if he had made a crazy gun that no one’s seen before.”
White said he knows people in the community who make their own guns like Neal did. He keeps them at arms length, and feels that there should be some restrictions in place to keep his community safe.
The shooting survivors want to set a precedent with their lawsuit. They want the entire ghost gun Industry to change its practices, regardless of current law.
Lowy summed up his case: “There is no question that if these ghost gun companies had acted responsibly, just used reasonable care to not supply people who are prohibited from having guns, this man would not have had the means to shoot or kill anybody."