Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva called in an interview broadcast Sunday evening on “60 Minutes” for a “total ban” on the sale and creation of “ghost gun” kits that allow felons and others barred from possessing guns to have firearms.
Ghost guns, also known as kit guns or 80-percent guns, are virtually untraceable weapons that can be made at home using legally purchased parts to complete the 80% already assembled. They are sold at gun shows and online.
Guns are required under federal law to have serial numbers and their purchasers must undergo a background check. However, the unfinished or precursor parts are not required have serial numbers and a background check is not required to purchase them.
Under a bill signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Oct. 11, the sale of firearm precursor parts would be required to be conducted by or processed through a licensed firearm precursor part vendor effective July 1, 2024.
Connecticut, New Jersey, Washington and the District of Columbia have similar restrictions.
“We need national laws, federal, from Congress that covers a total ban on the creation or the selling of these ghost guns kits,” Villanueva told correspondent Bill Whitaker, who then asked, “state-by-state is not going to do it?”
“It doesn’t because then you can just defeat it by going to another state,” Villanueva said.
A ghost gun was used in the Nov. 14 shooting attack at Saugus High School that killed two students and wounded three others before the 16-year-old shooter turned the gun on himself and later died, Villanueva said shortly after the shooting.
In response to a question from Whitaker about “Where on your list of worries do these ghost guns fall?” Villanueva responded, “Along with terrorism, active shooter, this is way up there on the list.”
Villanueva also said the number of ghost guns turning up in investigations by his department has gone up 50% over the past year.
The report on the CBS News magazine also included an interview with the father of Gracie Muehlberger, a 15-year-old girl killed in the Saugus High School shooting.
“Up to that day, I never heard the term ghost gun, so I didn’t even know what that was,” Bryan Muehlberger said. “I’m not against owning guns, but I also believe strongly that this is a serious problem that’s occurring that no one knew about.
“So, I feel like something needs to be done. It’s just — it’s become too easy.”
Law enforcement officers involved in the case say they believe the weapon used in the Saugus shooting had originally belonged to the late father of the shooter, who turned to ghost guns after having his own firearms confiscated after a psychiatric detention.
Whitaker and his team spent a year-and-a-half on the investigation, according to CBS, including interviewing present and past officials with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and in local law enforcement. They said sales of parts used to complete ghost guns are on the rise, along with traditional firearms, across the nation during the coronavirus pandemic.
“60 Minutes” producers were able to order a kit with everything someone would need to build their own 9mm handgun.
Thomas Chittum, the ATF’s assistant director of field operations, told Whitaker the ease of purchasing the parts “makes it challenging to keep it out of the hands of people who are not allowed to possess firearms.”
When asked by Whitaker how many of the untraceable guns are on the streets, Chittum responded, “I have no idea.”
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