LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón aiming to hit ghost gun kit manufacturers where it hurts – in the credit card payments.
Gascón says he has sent letters to three credit card companies to urge them to stop online payments for the purchase of ghost gun kits.
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“American Express, Mastercard and Visa have the ability to go beyond what any law enforcement agency, legislature, or city council can accomplish,” Gascón said in a statement. “We are asking these companies to join us in voting the flow of ghost guns into our communities by preventing a ghost gun kit from being sold with a few mere clicks on a smartphone or computer.”
Ghost gun kits are typically made up of parts that can be assembled into a working firearm, sent in a kit online for between $350 to $500. They are referred to as ghost guns because they are unregistered and lack serial numbers, making them untraceable to law enforcement, and can be purchased without a valid background check.
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“This means someone who is legally disqualified by virtue of a felony, domestic violence conviction, mental illness or being underage can easily purchase a ghost gun kit by making a false and untested certification,” a statement from the District Attorney’s Office said.
Appealing to credit card companies to help crackdown on illegal activity is not without precedent. District Attorney’s officials say credit card companies responded to a plea from Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart in 2015 and stopped processing payments on backpage.com, which had become notorious for facilitating sex trafficking, especially of underage minors.
†[Mastercard/Visa] could have responded to Sheriff Dart by citing the difficulty of monitoring specific transactions on the website and by disclaiming knowledge that any particular transaction processed it was for illegal purposes,” the letter to Mastercard and Visa said. “However, rather than hide behind legal technicalities, [Mastercard/Visa] chose to do the right thing and prohibited use of its network by Backpage.com.”
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The presence of ghost guns have grown exponentially in Los Angeles since 2017. In 2020, the LAPD recovered 813 ghost guns, a number that more than doubled to 1,780 in the first 11 months of 2021. The LAPD reported last summer that ghost guns accounted for 33% of all firearms recovered in suspected criminal activity.