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As Pasadena Continues to Seize Ghost Guns, LA City Council Bans Possession, Purchase and Sale of Unserialized Guns

Published on Wednesday, December 1, 2021 | 6:16 am
A 9mm, unserialized “ghost gun” recovered by police from a repeat felon at the end of a short pursuit in Pasadena on Sept. 4, 2020. (Credit: Pasadena Police Department)

As police in Pasadena continue to collect ghost guns during traffic stops, the LA City Council took action by unanimously approving an ordinance to prohibit the possession, purchase, sale, receipt and transportation of “ghost guns” in Los Angeles.

Locally, Pasadena police estimate that about 10% to 12% of the 250 firearms they have recovered so far this year have been ghost guns.

Earlier this year, City Manager Steve Mermell said the city was watching the LA City Council’s efforts.

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 new Los Angeles city ordinance will be punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and/or up to six months in jail.

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 in the city of Los Angeles, more than the 813 recovered during the entire year of 2020. So far in 2021, 1,445 “ghost guns” have been recovered, a 202% increase over last year, according to the LAPD.

“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 an increase in ghost guns and an 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, Los Angeles 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 Los Angeles 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.”

“We now have an entire industry of manufacturers, the soul 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,” said LA Councilmember Paul Krekorian.

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.

“This ordinance is an important effort to help keep unserialized and untraceable firearms, known as `ghost guns,’ off our streets. Similar initiatives have already been implemented in San Diego and San Francisco, and we commend the Los Angeles City Council for considering a similar measure,” the letter stated.

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