San Jose officials unanimously approved a ban on ghost guns, marking the city's latest effort to tighten the use of firearms.
On Tuesday, councilmembers voted on an ordinance prohibiting residents from possessing, manufacturing, selling, assembling, receiving or distributing un-serialized firearms and their parts.
These homemade weapons are also known as ghost guns because they're difficult to trace and can be easily assembled through kits or 3D printers. In February, local law enforcement busted a ghost gun factory operating out of a house in San Jose's Willow Glen neighborhood.
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San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said the weapons are a growing problem.
"About one fourth of illegal guns seized by SJPD are ghost guns," he said. "That's why we need this ordinance, to be able to address those guns on our streets."
Ghost guns accounted for 25-50 percent of firearms recovered at crime scenes in California during an 18-month period in 2020 and 2021, according to a city memo.
In Santa Clara County, the number of ghost guns recovered at crimes scenes increased by nearly 72 percent between 2015 and 2021.
San Jose Police Department spokesperson Steven Aponte said the department welcomes any legislation that helps officers remove illegal guns from the streets.
"Every illegal weapon taken from the hands of criminals helps prevent additional violent crimes from occurring," Aponte told San Jose Spotlight.
Councilmember Dev Davis, who represents District 6 where the ghost gun factory was located, said she's still examining details in the proposed ban. Davis noted some gun enthusiasts want to assemble firearms legally, and she doesn't want a prohibition so broad it will harm them. However, she sees ghost guns as a problem fueling gun violence in the city.
"We absolutely need to do everything we can to get ghost guns out of the hands of criminals," Davis told San Jose Spotlight.
Following a mass shooting at the VTA light rail yard in downtown San Jose last May, city officials pushed for a slate of gun control measures. In January, San Jose became the first city in the country to mandate gun owners purchase liability insurance and pay an annual fee of $25 to cover losses or damage resulting from negligent or accidental firearm use. This new law appears to be floundering.
Others, like the Silicon Valley Public Accountability Foundation say the ordinance penalizes law abiding people who legally manufacture firearms.
"We have a huge issue with that," said the foundation's executive director, Jonathan Fleming. "If you are going to follow the law and do it legally, following federal and sate rules you should have a right to exercise that."
Critics have said criminals won't care if there is or isn't a law.
Margaret Petros, executive director of Mothers Against Murder questions the effectiveness of the ordinance.
"I do support measures against gun violence, but I don't believe this law will make a difference.
The mayor believes the proposal will close loopholes which allowed people to purchase guns with enough missing components to evade state and federal firearms regulations.
San Jose isn't alone in considering outlawing ghost guns. Several California cities have passed laws banning un-serialized firearms, including San Francisco and San Diego. In April, President Joe Biden announced the finalization of a requirement for makers of gun kits to include serial numbers on firearm parts. The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors recently asked legal counsel to present options for a similar law at a meeting scheduled later this month.
This story was first published by the San Jose Spotlight.