L.A. City Council votes to ban ‘ghost guns’

The Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to ban so-called ghost guns, joining other big California cities in cracking down on the untraceable, generally homemade firearms that police say have proliferated in the city in recent years.

The ordinance, which Mayor Eric Garcetti is expected to sign, bans the possession, sale, purchase, receipt or transportation of firearms without serial numbers, as well as the parts used to make them. Violators could be fined up to $1,000 and receive up to six months in jail.

“These guns should have no place in Los Angeles and have already wreaked havoc on our streets,” Councilman Paul Koretz said during Tuesday’s meeting.

Ghost guns are exempt from laws requiring background checks and waiting periods because they are sold as unfinished kits, according to the motion introduced by Koretz and Councilman Paul Krekorian.

“One of the most successful strategies this nation has adopted to reduce gun violence is background checks. … Background checks work,” Krekorian said. “And yet, we now have an entire industry of manufacturers, the sole purpose of which is to evade background checks.”

The number of ghost guns seized by the Los Angeles Police Department has increased by approximately 400% since 2017, with an even sharper uptick this year, according to an Oct. 19 report issued by the department. During the first half of 2021, the department confiscated 863 ghost guns, a nearly 300% increase over the 217 it seized during the same period last year, according to the report.

In that same report, the LAPD described the use of ghost guns as “an epidemic not only in Los Angeles but nationwide.”

California Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla weighed in to support the ordinance before its passage, calling it “an important effort” to help keep the weapons off the street, in a letter sent last week to Council President Nury Martinez.

“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,” Feinstein and Padilla wrote. San Diego and San Francisco’s bans were both approved in September.

Efforts to stem the spread of ghost guns in California extend beyond local legislation.

In October, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation that adds ghost guns to the list of weapons that law enforcement can seize under gun violence or domestic violence restraining orders. Newsom also signed a law in 2019 that will require the sale of components used to build ghost guns to be carried out through a licensed vendor, but that law won’t go into effect until 2024.

City Atty. Mike Feuer announced a city lawsuit against a major manufacturer of ghost gun parts, Polymer80, in February.

Times staff writer Kevin Rector contributed to this report.

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