LAPD's "Ghost Gun" Epidemic Is Anything But

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File

A “ghost gun” is any gun built at home that lacks a serial number. In the state of California, if you build a firearm, you’re required to add some kind of a serial number to your weapon. Obviously, there are going to be some who simply refuse to do that. Some because they oppose the regulations–we Americans are funny like that–and others because they’re criminals. Breaking the law is just what they do.

However, the LAPD says that there’s a big problem. In fact, they say there are so many of these types of firearms in criminal hands that it’s an epidemic.

The proliferation of ghost guns — some of which can be put together within 30 minutes — has increased “exponentially over the last year” and has become an “epidemic,” according to a Los Angeles Police Department report that will be reviewed by the police commission tomorrow.

The virtually untraceable weapons, which don’t have serial numbers, have increased by about 400% in Los Angeles since 2017, according to the LAPD’s data on recovered firearms.

“The current trend shows these figures will continue to grow exponentially,” the LAPD said in its report, which notes that 3D printing allows the components to be more accessible.

Ghost guns are often used in violent crimes in Los Angeles, according to the report. So far this year, 24 murders, eight attempted murders, 60 assaults with deadly weapons and 20 armed robberies involved ghost guns.

Between January and June of this year, 863 ghost guns were recovered, more than the 813 that were recovered during the entire year of 2020.

“Ghost guns are an epidemic not only in Los Angeles, but nationwide,” the LAPD report said.

But is it really?

Well, let’s look at the numbers. If you assume every assault listed is someone being shot with a so-called ghost gun, there have been 94 shootings with these weapons.

Yet here’s some information from back in June:

A total of 651 people have been shot in Los Angeles year-to-date, compared to 434 last year, and the city is averaging about 27 shooting victims per week, Moore said. Last week, 25 people were shot in the city per week.

Obviously, the numbers have gone up, but I haven’t been able to find a more up-to-date report. (The LAPD’s statistics page was being wonky and not giving me anything.) Still, this should be good enough for our purposes.

If no one else had been shot since June–again, unlikely in a city of almost four million people–then “ghost guns” account for about 14 percent of all weapons used in shootings in Los Angeles.

That’s high, but hardly epidemic levels.

The thing is, it’s not that high. That report is nearly 4 months old. That’s a quarter of a year in a major city. Since the “ghost gun” report is the newest, we can take those numbers as being fairly accurate, but we know there have been a lot more shootings since June 22, so the actual percentage is going to be significantly smaller.

But this is what happens. They use numbers out of context in an effort to scare people into demanding regulation on something, but when you have the full context, you see how little of an issue it actually is.

It seems like the bigger issue is how little California’s gun control laws have done to keep conventional firearms out of the hands of criminals, which account for 90 percent or more of the “gun crime” in Los Angeles.

For “ghost guns” to be a real epidemic, it would seem that they’d have to account for more than just a small percentage of the weapons used in Los Angeles’ growing violent crime problem.

The only epidemic I see is people wetting their pants over such a relatively small issue.

Nov 26, 2021 10:30 AM ET