Los Angeles County Attorney George Gascón said on Tuesday he was calling on three major credit card companies to once again demonstrate responsible corporate citizenship by stopping online payments for the purchase of kits phantom weapons.
“American Express, Mastercard and Visa have the ability to go beyond what any law enforcement agency, legislature or city council can do,” Gascón said. “We’re asking these businesses to join us in stemming the flow of ghost weapons into our communities by preventing the sale of a ghost weapon kit with just a few clicks on a smartphone or computer.”
Gascón was joined by Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore and San Gabriel Police Chief Gene Harris, who is president of the Los Angeles County Police Chiefs Association, in urging card companies loan to end online transactions involving ghost weapons.
Ghost guns are gun kits sold primarily on the internet for around $350-$500. The tool set that arrives in the mail can be assembled into a working firearm. They are called ghost guns because they are unregistered and lack serial numbers, making them untraceable by law enforcement, officials say.
Weapons are purchased without valid background checks, often simply requiring the buyer to self-certify. This means that someone legally disqualified due to a felony, domestic violence conviction, mental illness, or being underage can easily purchase a ghost gun kit by making a fake untested certification.
“It is well documented and indisputable that the proliferation of phantom weapons has had a debilitating effect on our country, state and county,” read Tuesday’s statement. “By banning online payments for phantom guns, credit card companies can take significant steps to improve public safety.”
The 2019 shooting at Saugus High School, which killed two students and the shooter and injured three others, was committed with a ghost gun in the hands of the 16-year-old shooter.
See related: Saugus shooting victim’s family talks about federal ghost gun investigation
To test how easy it was for someone to acquire one of these guns, the father of one of the victims purchased a ghost gun using his daughter’s name and his own credit card to order a ghost gun kit. It was delivered without a hitch, even though the alleged buyer was not only a minor, but also deceased.
Gascón stressed that it is more than possible for automakers to take a stand, and they have done so in the past.
In 2015, credit card companies banded together to stop allowing their networks to be used for payment processing on backpage.com, which was accused of facilitating sex trafficking.
Since 2017, the number of phantom guns seized by the Los Angeles Police Department has increased approximately 400% and the trend is accelerating. In 2020, the LAPD recovered 813 ghost guns.
See related: Man found with methamphetamine, ‘Ghost Gun’ arrested in Valencia
During the first 11 months of 2021, the amount recovered more than doubled to 1,780. Last August, the LAPD reported that ghost guns accounted for 33 percent of all guns recovered in suspected criminal activity.
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