LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Los Angeles County’s top prosecutor called today on three credit card companies to stop online payments for the purchase of kits to make untraceable “ghost guns.”
“American Express, Mastercard and Visa have the ability to go beyond what any law enforcement agency, legislature or city council can accomplish,” District Attorney George Gascón said in a written 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.”
So-called ghost guns are typically assembled from purchased or homemade components and lack serial numbers by which they can be identified.
The District Attorney’s Office contends that no valid background checks are done, often merely requiring the buyer to self-certify – enabling someone who is legally disqualified because of a felony or domestic violence conviction, mental illness or being underage to easily buy a ghost gun kit by making a false and untested certification.
Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore and San Gabriel Police Chief Gene Harris, who is the president of the Los Angeles County Police Chiefs’ Association, also joined Gascón in the request.
Last October, the LAPD reported to the police commission on the “epidemic” of ghost guns, which department officials say have increased “exponentially over the last year.”
“The current trend shows these figures will continue to grow exponentially,” according to the LAPD report, which notes that 3D printing allows the components to be more accessible.
“Ghost guns’ are replacing firearms people would normally purchase, with no background checks required,” according to the report.
The Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved an ordinance last November to ban the possession, purchase, sale, receipt and transportation of
“ghost guns” in Los Angeles in a measure that went into effect Jan. 17.
“What this will allow us to do is the simple possession of an unserialized weapon, the lower receiver, the frame or if the entire weapon itself is unserialized, we can make an judgment immediately. We can remove that gun off the street and we can take action that today we cannot,” the LAPD chief said after the ordinance was passed.
“We also recognize that it’s not just the guy holding the gun, it’s the purveyor of it. It’s who is manufacturing it. This legislation is going to allow us to go and pursue those illicit operators because we have to stop the supply chain.”
In letters sent to the chief executive officers of the three credit card companies, Gascón and the two police chiefs noted that they were writing “in hopes of appealing to your company’s proven history of responsible corporate citizenship.”
The letters note that the companies decided in 2015 to cease to allow their networks to be used to process payments from a website that “had become notorious for facilitating sex trafficking, especially of underage minors,” and urged the companies to “make a similar responsible decision with regards to `ghost guns.”’
Ghost guns were used during a 2013 shooting at Santa Monica College in which six people, including the shooter, died; and a shooting at Saugus High School in 2019, in which three students, including the shooter, were killed and three others were injured, along with the shooting of two Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies sitting inside a squad car in September 2020, the letters note .
Los Angeles police recovered 813 ghost guns in 2020, with the number more than doubling to 1,780 in the first 11 months of 2021, according to the letters, which noted that the LAPD reported last August that ghost guns accounted for 33% of all guns recovered by the LAPD in its investigations of suspected criminal activity.