LAPD declares 'ghost guns' an 'epidemic,' citing 400% increase in seizures

FILE - In this Nov. 27, 2019 file photo, "ghost guns" are displayed at the headquarters of the San Francisco Police Department in San Francisco. The district attorney of San Francisco announced a lawsuit Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021, against three California companies that make and distribute "ghost guns," the untraceable, build-it-yourself weaponry that accounted for nearly half of the city's firearms recovered in gun killings last year. (AP Photo/Haven Daley, File)
So-called ghost guns are displayed by San Francisco police in 2019. (Haven Daley / Associated Press)
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The proliferation of homemade "ghost guns" has skyrocketed in Los Angeles, contributing to more than 100 violent crimes this year, the Los Angeles Police Department said in a report released Friday.

Detectives have linked the untraceable weapons to 24 killings, eight attempted homicides and dozens of assaults and armed robberies since January, according to the report.

And police expect the problem to get worse, the report said.

During the first half of this year, 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. Since 2017, the report said, the department has seen a 400% increase in seizures. That sharp jump suggests the number of ghost guns on the streets and such seizures "will continue to grow exponentially," the authors of the report wrote.

"Ghost guns are an epidemic not only in Los Angeles but nationwide," the department said.

The weapons typically are made of polymer parts created with 3-D printing technology and can be assembled using kits at home. They often are relatively inexpensive. Because they are not made by licensed manufacturers, they lack serial numbers, making them impossible to track.

Felons who are banned from possessing firearms because of previous offenses increasingly are turning to ghost guns, LAPD officials have said.

The LAPD's analysis was compiled in response to a City Council motion, introduced by Councilmen Paul Koretz and Paul Krekorian, that calls for a new city ordinance banning the possession, sale, purchase, receipt or transportation of such weapons or the "non-serialized, unfinished frames and unfinished receivers" that are used to make them.

The LAPD said it is "strongly in support" of the proposed ordinance. "Ghost guns are real, they work, and they kill," the agency said in the report.

Koretz called the latest data "appalling" and said the report "reaffirms the fact that these weapons have only wreaked havoc on our streets and should have no place in Los Angeles."

"It's absolutely ridiculous to think that the manufacture, sale and marketing of these weapons is intended for anything but skirting a loophole in state and federal gun laws to get firearms into the hands of people who law enforcement — and we as a society — have deemed unfit to possess guns," Koretz said.

The focus on ghost guns comes amid a large uptick in shootings and homicides in the city. As of Oct. 9, homicides were up 10.8% over last year and 49% over 2019, while the number of victims shot in the city was up 21.9% over last year and 47.8% over 2019, according to LAPD data.

It also comes amid other efforts by elected officials in California to rein in such weapons.

In July, federal law enforcement authorities launched "strike forces" across the country, including in Los Angeles, to focus on the illegal distribution of firearms and go after makers of ghost guns. At the time, L.A. Police Chief Michel Moore said such guns accounted for a third of all weapons seized by the LAPD.

City Atty. Mike Feuer announced a city lawsuit against a major manufacturer of ghost gun parts, Polymer 80, in February. Other California officials are also suing manufacturers.

Gov. Gavin Newsom last week signed a new state law enabling law enforcement to seize such weapons under restraining orders related to gun and domestic violence. Newsom previously signed a law requiring the sale of firearm precursor parts to be processed through a licensed vendor, but that law doesn't take effect until 2024.

The city of San Diego recently passed an ordinance prohibiting such weapons.

In their motion to ban the weapons in L.A., Koretz and Krekorian said that "sending a wave of weapons without serial numbers or known purchasers onto our streets creates obvious dangers."

The LAPD's report will go to the civilian Police Commission on Tuesday before being forwarded to the City Council.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.