Ghost guns can be found all over the country, and they complicate law enforcements’ efforts to combat gun violence, which has prompted the Los Angeles County district attorney to call on credit card companies to help track the purchase of the kits to make them.
Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón announced this week that he is calling on American Express, Mastercard and Visa to “show responsible corporate citizenship” and stop online payments for the purchase of ghost gun kits.
The DA’s office described ghost guns are firearm kits sold mostly on the internet that give purchasers the tools to assemble a working gun. They’re called ghost guns because they are unregistered and lack a serial number, making them untraceable by law enforcement. They range from $300 to $500 per kit.
Ghost guns also don’t require purchasers to complete a background check, many times only asking that the buyer self-certify that they are not legally disqualified from buying a gun.
In a letter sent to the CEOs of American Express, Visa and Mastercard, Gascón, along with Michael Moore, chief of police for the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), and Gene Harris, president of the Los Angeles County Police Chiefs’ Association, explained just how high the stakes are from ghost gun purchases.
“This means that someone who is legally disqualified by virtue of a felony or domestic violence conviction, or by virtue of mental illness or being underage, can nevertheless easily purchase a ghost gun kit by simply making false and untested certification,” said the letter addressed to Michael Miebach, CEO of Mastercard, and Alfred Kelly Jr., CEO of Visa.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office said that since 2017 the number of ghost guns seized by LAPD has increased by approximately 400 percent and the trend is accelerating.
During 2020, LAPD recovered 813 ghost guns and during the first 11 months of 2021, the amount recovered more than doubled to 1,780.
Ghost guns appear to correspond with a rise in violent crime, as the DA’s office also said that as of August 2021, homicides had increased 25 percent from 2020 and that shootings with victims hit by gunfire increased 35 percent.
LAPD reported that during the first 10 months of 2021, officers reported that ghost guns had been used in 24 murders, eight attempted murders, 60 assaults with deadly weapons and 20 armed robberies.
Credit card companies have previously pulled their services over dangerous and illegal online activity, with Gascón’s letter to Visa and Mastercard highlighting how in 2017 the companies had decided to “cease allowing its network to be used to process payments on the Backpage.com website.”
Backpage.com had been found to be a notorious online hub for facilitating sex trafficking, especially of underage minors.
“By your action, you can prevent a ghost gun kit from being sold over the internet with a few mere clicks on a smartphone or computer. Please join us in stemming the flow of ghost guns into our communities,” said Gascón’s letter to Visa and Mastercard.
Ghost guns are not a problem exclusive to California, as Center for American Progress Action Fund found that approximately 10,000 ghost guns were recovered across the country in 2019.
Changing America has requested comment from American Express, Visa and Mastercard.
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