Los Angeles City Council Seeks To Ban "Ghost Guns"

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File

Firearms without serial numbers aren’t anything new. Once upon a time, guns weren’t even required to have serial numbers, after all. Once they were required on newly manufactured guns, they didn’t magically appear on older firearms by any stretch of the imagination. Now, people make guns on their own, and those aren’t required to have a serial number either.

Some call these firearms “ghost guns” because it sounds nice and scary.

Unfortunately, though, the scare tactics worked and people are actually frightened of unserialized firearms. Many places have banned them–particularly the incomplete receivers and associated kits that allow ordinary people to build their own guns–and still others are considering them.

Los Angeles is one of those places.

The City Council is scheduled to vote Tuesday on an ordinance that would prohibit the possession, purchase, sale, receipt and transportation of “ghost guns” in Los Angeles.

The ordinance requires unanimous approval to be adopted on its first reading. If it does not receive unanimous approval, it will return next week for a second vote, when only a majority will be required. The council voted unanimously Aug. 31 to have the City Attorney’s Office draft the ordinance, which was requested in a motion by Councilmen Paul Koretz and Paul Krekorian.

The ordinance would prohibit the possession, purchase, sale, receipt or transport of a non-serialized unfinished firearm frame or receiver or non-serialized firearm. Such a weapon — known as “ghost guns” because they are virtually untraceable — can be assembled by unlicensed buyers from legally purchased kits. The unfinished parts are inexpensive and not required under federal law to have serial numbers or a background check to purchase. According to the gun control advocacy organization Everytown For Gun Safety, an AR-15 ghost gun kit and lower receiver can be purchased for $345.

Violation of the city ordinance would be punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and/or up to six months in jail.

Ghost guns accounted for more than 40% of guns confiscated by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and one-third of crime guns recovered by the Los Angeles Police Department in 2020.

I find those numbers rather suspect.

You regular readers know that I’ve been pretty skeptical over claims of “ghost guns” being a major issue. I’ve examined the numbers provided in a number of places and they’ve never been remotely close to anything like this.

Not only that, but earlier this year, I reached out to the ATF to try and get some official numbers of so-called ghost guns recovered. A spokesperson for the bureau informed me that they don’t track that kind of information, so how is it that they can provide a percentage here?

But, for the sake of argument, let’s assume they’re right. Let’s assume that they are recovering orders of magnitude more homemade firearms than any other jurisdiction I’ve seen.

Why would a ban on such a thing actually change anything?

Those who are producing these guns and selling them to criminals already know what they’re doing is illegal. Do you think another law is suddenly going to stop all of this? Of course it’s not.

Plus, I’m curious how many of the council members’ donors are gun collectors. They’re not likely to be too happy about antique firearms suddenly becoming banned in the city. Those don’t have serial numbers either, after all, and unless the law is very specific as to which firearms are exempt–something I suspect they won’t think about–a lot of rich people are going to have to liquidate their collections. Either that or move out of the city.

Look, it’s well beyond time to stop focusing on the tools and focus on the tools using them. If you want to stop violent crime, you focus on violent criminals and how to deal with them.

That’s who represents the problem.