The proliferation of ghost guns — some of which can be put together within 30 minutes — has increased “exponentially over the last year” and has become an “epidemic,” according to a Los Angeles Police Department report that will be reviewed by the police commission Tuesday.
The virtually untraceable weapons, which don’t have serial numbers, have increased by about 400% in Los Angeles since 2017, according to the LAPD’s data on recovered firearms.
“The current trend shows these figures will continue to grow exponentially,” the LAPD said in its report, which notes that 3D printing allows the components to be more accessible.
Ghost guns can be assembled by unlicensed buyers from legally purchased kits. The LAPD reported that a polymer 9mm ghost handgun takes between 30 minutes and two hours to assemble.
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 are replacing firearms people would normally purchase, with no background checks required,” the LAPD report said.
Ghost guns are often used in violent crimes in Los Angeles, according to the report. So far this year, 24 murders, eight attempted murders, 60 assaults with deadly weapons and 20 armed robberies involved ghost guns.
Between January and June of this year, 863 ghost guns were recovered, more than the 813 that were recovered during the entire year of 2020.
“Ghost guns are an epidemic not only in Los Angeles, but nationwide,” the LAPD report said.
Nationally, 8,712 ghost guns were recovered in 2020, while only 2,507 were recovered in 2017, the LAPD said, citing a report from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. The LAPD report, while citing an approximate 400% increase in the city in that time span, did not provide specific numbers.
The Los Angeles City Council on Aug. 31 took a major step toward prohibiting the possession, purchase, sale, receipt and transportation of ghost guns in Los Angeles by ordering the City Attorney’s Office to draft an ordinance.
“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 on Aug. 31 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 had been recovered so far in 2021, 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,” Pitcher said.
That motion also directed the LAPD to report on the impact of ghost guns in Los Angeles through the report presented to the police commission on Tuesday.
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.
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.
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