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LA City Council passes ban on ghost guns

Gun-rights advocates will likely challenge the ordinance in court, even as shootings, murders and ghost gun seizures have spiked two years in a row.

(CN) — The Los Angeles City Council voted Tuesday to ban the sale and possession of nonserialized, privately made firearms, also known as "ghost guns," in the city. The law is modeled on a similar one in San Diego, which went into effect last month after a federal judge declined to block it.

Consumers typically buy ghost guns as kits, with a number of parts that can be easily assembled at home in a few hours. They are cheap — a kit to assemble an AR-15 can be bought for as little as $345, according to the nonprofit Everytown for Gun Safety. Some gun parts can be printed at home, on a 3D printer. And they are virtually untraceable, since they come without serial numbers.

They also provide a way to get around a bevy of gun control laws, including assault rifle bans and laws dictating who can buy or own a gun. Federal law bars most convicted felons, undocumented immigrants, children and the mentally ill from owning a firearm — but no federal law regulates ghost gun kits. And you don't need a background check to buy them either.

"Please understand they are not marketed to law-abiding hobbyists who are going to take a stroll to their friendly neighborhood, federally licensed firearms dealer to pick up a ghost gun kit," said Councilman Paul Koretz at a press conference after the vote. "They are marketed to people who would otherwise be prohibited from purchasing and possessing firearms."

Though kits to assemble guns at home have been sold for decades, they have proliferated in recent years. In 2013, a mass shooter at Santa Monica College killed six people, including himself, in part by using a homemade AR-15-style assault rifle.

"The proliferation of self-made, nonserialized firearms, or ghost guns, has increased exponentially over the last year," a recent report issued by LAPD Chief Michel Moore said. According to the report, LAPD recovered 813 ghost guns in 2020. Moore said that In the first half of this year, his department recovered 863, accounting for a third of all firearms recovered by the LAPD.

Shootings and murders have spiked for a second year in LA. As of Oct. 23, there had already been 325 homicides, a nearly 50% increase from that same time in 2019. Last year, LAPD linked 14 murders to the use of ghost guns. This year, that number is already up to 24.

"That's 24 families that don’t have their family member with them, that will grieve and suffer the loss at the hands of an individual with this unlicensed firearm, because of the greed of the person able to make that firearm in their garage, sell it for five, six, 700 dollars," Moore said. "The individual shouldn’t have had that weapon. It's a terrible tragedy."

The law passed 13-0 and awaits the signature of Mayor Eric Garcetti, taking effect about a month after signing. Moore said Angelenos who own a ghost gun can turn them in to any police station, and that the city is looking for a philanthropic partner to buy ghost guns from people. The LAPD will also investigate the manufacture and sale of the weapons.

This past May, the U.S. Department of Justice proposed a new rule which would require certain ghost gun parts to be manufactured with serial numbers, and the sellers of kits to run background checks on the customers. That rule will not go into effect until next year after a lengthy public comment period, and is expected to be challenged in court by gun-rights advocates.

"People have made their own firearms since before the country was founded and there is no valid reason any law-abiding person should be barred from possessing them," NRA spokesperson Amy Hunter said in a statement. "If federal, state and local governments are interested in making their communities safer, they should enforce the laws on the books and arrest and prosecute criminals who break the law.”

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