The City Council took a major step Tuesday toward prohibiting the possession, purchase, sale, receipt and transportation of “ghost guns” in Los Angeles.
The council voted 14-0 to have the City Attorney’s Office draft an ordinance prohibiting ghost guns, also known as kit guns and 80% receivers. The virtually untraceable weapons 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.
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.
“When we see an increase in homicides here, and when we see that the LAPD reports that 40% of the crime guns recovered are ghost guns, we know that we have a very urgent critical situation that needs to be addressed,” Councilman Paul Krekorian said Tuesday before the unanimous vote to pass the motion he introduced with Councilman Paul Koretz on Aug. 10.
LAPD Deputy Chief Kris Pitcher told council members before the vote that 1,084 ghost guns have been recovered so far in 2020, and the department expects it could recover 2,500 by the end of the year.
“Ghost guns have been around for approximately nine years, however, they have surfaced as a major problem in 2020 with the confiscation of 814 ghost guns just last year alone in Los Angeles,” Pitcher said.
The motion also directs the LAPD to present data to the council within 14 days on the impact of ghost guns in Los Angeles, including the number of non-serialized firearms confiscated from people and recovered at crime scenes and the number of shootings and homicides that involved non-serialized firearms.
Ghost guns were used during a 2013 shooting at Santa Monica College in which six people, including the shooter, died; a series of shootings in Tehama County in 2017, in which five people died; and the 2019 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. “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 City Attorney’s Office suggested that public discussions do not take place regarding potential legal analysis and issues around the ordinance, as those discussions could be used in a lawsuit against the city over the pending ordinance.
Regarding potential legal challenges to the law, Krekorian added, “We often end up in litigation over these things and so be it. But let’s keep in mind that every single time we have enacted any common-sense gun restrictions … you always hear, `well this is an imposition on the law-abiding gun owner.’ No law-abiding gun owner needs to have a gun that doesn’t have a serial number, that’s assembled from parts that are delivered over the internet.”
The ATF recovered about 10,000 ghost guns in the United States in 2019, 2,700 of which were in California.
Once the City Attorney’s Office prepares the draft ordinance, it will be sent to the City Council for a vote.
Krekorian introduced a motion approved in February to authorize City Attorney Mike Feuer to negotiate contracts with two law firms to receive their pro bono services to develop and implement legal strategies to combat ghost guns.