Counties in Southern California have been cracking down on ghost guns, with the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) calling their prevalence an “epidemic,” according to a recent LAPD report.
The report, which was presented to the LAPD Board of Commissioners on Oct. 19, said the use of ghost guns in the city has increased by nearly 400 percent since 2017.
Their use is “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 commission during the meeting.
Ghost guns, also known as “kit guns,” are sold partially assembled and can be completed using purchased parts. The LAPD’s report noted that 3-D printing makes obtaining parts especially convenient. The unfinished parts are not legally required to have serial numbers or a background check to purchase and are often sold at gun shows or online.
“When sold without background checks, [the ghost guns] end up in the possession of felons,” LA Councilman Paul Krekorian said in August. “In Los Angeles, ghost guns were a factor in the sharp rise in homicides in 2020. This motion enables the city to move aggressively to significantly reduce the number of non-serialized firearms in our communities.”
The San Diego County Board of Supervisors also on Oct. 19 voted 3–2 to draft an ordinance within 90 days banning possession or distribution of ghost guns and non-serial-numbered parts used to build firearms.
Some, such as San Diego Supervisor Shaun Frederickson, oppose the ghost gun ban, arguing they are a non-issue since California already has strict gun laws and a registry.
Others argue that the LAPD’s numbers have been taken out of context in an effort to scare people into demanding more regulations on guns.
“It seems like the bigger issue is how little California’s gun control laws have done to keep conventional firearms out of the hands of criminals, which account for 90 percent or more of the ‘gun crime’ in Los Angeles,” Tom Knighton wrote of the LAPD’s report in the Bearing Arms website.
“For ‘ghost guns’ to be a real epidemic, it would seem that they’d have to account for more than just a small percentage of the weapons used in Los Angeles’ growing violent crime problem.”
In 2002 the LAPD recovered 813 ghost guns, while 863 ghost guns were recovered in the first half of 2021.
To date in 2021, 1,445 ghost guns have been recovered this year, a 202 percent increase over last year, according to the report.
LAPD Deputy Chief Kris Pitcher said that ghost guns are being recovered more frequently, and drew a connection between their increase and an increase in shootings and homicides.
In 2021, the city has experienced 320 homicides—a 16 percent increase—and 1,165 shootings, which is an increase of 20 percent, Pitcher said. “So I want to make the connectivity there, as ghost guns are being recovered more frequently.”
Orange County has also seen a recent proliferation of ghost guns.
According to the Santa Ana Police Department, seizures of ghost guns have risen dramatically in the last year compared to regular firearm seizures.
In 2021, almost 120 ghost guns have been seized in Santa Ana compared to 50 last year, nearly a 140 percent increase over 2020.
Compared to regular gun seizures, the Santa Ana Police Department seized over 290 firearms so far this year. Over the same period last year, the department seized over 220 firearms—almost a 30 percent increase.
The LAPD’s report comes after the LA City Council directed the LAPD to report on the impact of ghost guns in the city, resulting in the report presented to the police commission on Oct. 19.
The council also ordered the city attorney’s office to draft an ordinance banning the possession, purchase, sale, receipt, and transportation of ghost guns in the city on Aug. 31.
Drew Van Voorhis contributed to this report.