By Margaret Shuttleworth
The City Council Tuesday unanimously approved an ordinance to prohibit the possession, purchase, sale, receipt and transportation of “ghost guns” in Los Angeles.
The ordinance was requested by a motion from Councilmen Paul Koretz and Paul Krekorian, which also passed through the council unanimously. It will next go to Mayor Eric Garcetti, whose office said he would sign it.
“There’s no question that ghost guns are an epidemic nationwide, but today we have an obligation to protect the lives of Angelenos, and this is one step that we can take to do all that,” Koretz said before Tuesday’s vote.
The ordinance prohibits the possession, purchase, sale, receipt or transport of a non-serialized unfinished firearm frame or receiver or non- serialized firearm.
Such weapons — known as “ghost guns” because they are virtually untraceable — can be assembled by unlicensed buyers from legally purchased kits. The unfinished parts are inexpensive and not required under federal law to have serial numbers or a background check to purchase.
According to the gun control advocacy organization Everytown For Gun Safety, an AR-15 ghost gun kit and lower receiver can be purchased for $345.
Violation of the city ordinance will be punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and/or up to six months in jail.
“What this will allow us to do is the simple possession of an unserialized weapon, the lower receiver, the frame or if the entire weapon itself is unserialized, we can make an arrest immediately. We can remove that gun off the street and we can take action that today we cannot,” Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore said after the ordinance was passed.
“We also recognize that it’s not just the guy holding the gun, it’s the purveyor of it. It’s who is manufacturing it. This legislation is going to allow us to go and pursue those illicit operators because we have to stop the supply chain.”
Krekorian said before the vote that there’s now an entire industry involved in ghost gun manufacturing.
“We now have an entire industry of manufacturers, the sole purpose of which is to evade background checks, to manufacture a product that will lead to death, destruction, violence across our country with impunity, because those weapons are available without background checks and without the ability to be traced,” Krekorian said.
On Monday, Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla, both D-California, sent a letter to Council President Nury Martinez expressing their support of the ordinance.
“California continues to lead on gun safety with Los Angeles joining San Francisco and San Diego in banning ghost guns. Untraceable firearms have no business on our streets and I’m glad the city council acted decisively to remove them,” Feinstein said in a statement after the ordinance passed the City Council.
Ghost guns accounted for more than 40% of guns confiscated by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and one-third of crime guns recovered by the Los Angeles Police Department in 2020.
On Oct. 19, the LAPD reported to the police commission on the “epidemic” of ghost guns, which department officials say have increased “exponentially over the last year.”
“The current trend shows these figures will continue to grow exponentially,” according to the LAPD report, which notes that 3D printing allows the components to be more accessible.
“`Ghost guns’ are replacing firearms people would normally purchase, with no background checks required,” according to the report.
Between January and June of this year, 863 ghost guns were recovered, more than the 813 recovered during the entire year of 2020. In 2021, nearly 1,800 “ghost guns” have been recovered, Moore said Tuesday.
“It’s dramatically going up, and it is going to eclipse last year’s totals, potentially by 1,000 plus guns,” LAPD Deputy Chief Kris Pitcher told the police commission on Oct. 19.
Pitcher drew a connection between the increase in ghost guns and the increase in crime.
“In 2021, the city has experienced 320 homicides, we’re up 15.9%, and in terms of shootings, we’ve had 1,165 so far, which is an increase of 20%. So, I want to make the connectivity there as `ghost guns’ are being recovered more frequently.”
Between January and September, 14 ghost guns were recovered from homicide scenes, 15 from robberies and 50 from assaults with deadly weapons, police said.
Ghost guns were also used during a 2013 shooting at Santa Monica College in which six people, including the shooter, died; during a series of shootings in Tehama County in 2017, in which five people died; and in the shooting at Saugus High School in 2019, in which three students, including the shooter, were killed and three others were injured.
“There are no federal restrictions on who could buy `ghost gun’ kits … and they’re intentionally marketed as unregulated and untraceable to appeal to people prohibited from purchasing firearms locally,” Koretz said when the motion requesting the ordinance passed the City Council.
“This is absolutely ridiculous to think that the manufacture, sale and marketing of these weapons is intended for anything but skirting a loophole in the state and federal gun laws to get firearms into the hands of people who law enforcement and we as a society have deemed as unfit to possess those guns.”
The National Rifle Association, in a statement provided to City News Service on Tuesday, said it believes that the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gives Americans the right to make their own firearms without the permission of the federal government. The amendment states: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
The NRA added:
“Firearms made by individuals are subject to the same rules and regulations as firearms manufactured by a company. It is still illegal for prohibited people to possess them and those in violation are subject to 10 years in prison. People have made their own firearms since before the country was founded and there is no valid reason any law-abiding person should be barred from possessing them.
“If federal, state and local governments are interested in making their communities safer, they should enforce the laws on the books and arrest and prosecute criminals who break the law.”