Long Beach could look to ban manufacturing, possession of ‘ghost gun’ parts

With the Long Beach Police Department reporting a spike in the number of untraceable guns recovered during arrests last year, the City Council may begin crafting a new law that would criminalize the possession or production of parts used to assemble “ghost guns.”

Ghost guns are privately-made firearms that have increased in prevalence in recent years due to evolving technologies like 3D printers that allow people to print parts used to make guns.

Because they lack serial numbers and are not registered, they are untraceable and kits to assemble ghost guns can be purchased online without background checks or records of purchase.

At Feb. 25 Public Safety Committee meeting, LBPD officials said that in addition to the number of guns the department was recovering during arrests, the percentage of those that are ghost guns was also increasing.

In 2020, LBPD officers recovered 83 ghost guns. That number increased to 185 in 2021, according to LBPD Deputy Chief Robert Smith, who oversees the department’s investigation bureau. They accounted to 17% of all guns recovered by LBPD, Smith said.

“I think there’s money to be made in making these things and selling them, but gang members are definitely involved in the sale and distribution and use of them,” Smith said.

Ghost guns were used in two of the city’s 34 gun murders last year, according to Smith. A total of 37 people were killed in Long Beach in 2021, according to police data.

A trio of council members is now asking the city to write a local ordinance that would criminalize having or making the parts necessary to build fully functional ghost guns. Similar laws are also making their way through the state Legislature.

Council member Suzie Price, who is vice-chair of the Public Safety Committee and authored the request, said she’s asking the city to look at drafting an ordinance in an effort to be proactive in what some may already consider an all-out crisis of gun violence.

Council members Al Austin and Roberto Uranga are also signed on in support of the item.

While owning an unregistered gun or one without a serial number is already illegal statewide, manufacturing the parts to create one is not. Price’s request comes amid an increase in shootings and gun-related arrests.

“The trends statewide are alarming,” Price said. “It’s very easy to make and purchase ghost guns and they have no record of sale or required background checks.”

Price called the police department’s February presentation “alarming and eye-opening.”

There is an effort to ban ghost guns at the state level, but some cities including San Francisco and San Diego have already moved forward with their own local bans.  Assembly Bill 1621, which was introduced in January, would ban anyone from producing guns without serial numbers and would require people already in possession of one to have it registered with the state Department of Justice.

Tuesday’s vote could start Long Beach’s process to create a local law that would criminalize the production and possession of ghost gun parts and also put the city’s support behind pending statewide legislation.

 

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Jason Ruiz has been covering City Hall for the Post for nearly a decade. A Long Beach resident, Ruiz graduated from Cal State Long Beach with a degree in journalism. He and his wife Kristina and, most importantly, their dog Mango, live in Long Beach. He is a particularly avid fan of the Dallas Cowboys and the UCLA Bruins, which is why he sometimes comes to work after the weekend in a grumpy mood.
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