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Authorities in the Los Angeles area are urging three major credit card companies to stop processing online payments for kits used to assemble untraceable “ghost guns.”

L.A. County Dist. Atty. George Gascón, LAPD Chief Michel Moore and San Gabriel Police Chief Gene Harris sent letters to the chief executives of Visa, MasterCard and American Express urging them to take quick action to stop payments, according to an announcement Tuesday.

The companies “have the ability to go beyond what any law enforcement agency, legislature or city council can accomplish,” Gascón said in a statement. “We are asking these companies to join us in stemming the flow of ghost guns into our communities by preventing a ghost gun kit from being sold with a few mere clicks on a smartphone or computer.”

The guns are typically made from polymer parts created with 3-D printers, and they are untraceable because they aren’t registered and lack serial numbers. They can be assembled at home and are often inexpensive, with kits selling online for about $350 to $500, according to the district attorney’s office.

“The weapons are purchased with no valid background checks, often merely requiring the buyer to self-certify,” the district attorney’s announcement said. “This means that someone who is legally disqualified by virtue of a felony, domestic violence conviction, mental illness or being underage can easily purchase a ghost gun kit by making a false and untested certification.”

In their letters to credit card executives, Gascón, Moore and Harris wrote that the number of ghost guns seized by Los Angeles police officers alone has increased by about 400% since 2017.


LAPD declares ‘ghost guns’ an ‘epidemic,’ citing 400% increase in seizures

The proliferation of so-called ghost guns, which are untraceable and able to be assembled at home, has contributed to more than 100 violent crimes so far this year, the LAPD said.

That trend is accelerating, they wrote.

“The proliferation of ghost guns has corresponded with a sharp rise in violent crime,” according to the letters.

Gascón, Moore and Harris said legal action by law enforcement and legislation banning ghost guns haven’t been effective.

“Many of the major ghost gun suppliers have been the subject of civil law enforcement actions filed by prosecutors with little impact on the production and supply of ghost gun components,” they wrote.

Industry lawyers have tangled up the lawsuits in court, claiming that ghost gun kits sold online aren’t complete enough to meet the legal definition of a firearm and aren’t subject to laws requiring background checks and serial numbers, according to the letters.

Gascón, Moore and Harris pointed to a 2015 decision by the three credit card companies to stop payment processing for The company had long faced accusations that it was being used to traffic underage victims. It was eventually shut down after being linked to human trafficking.

A similar move by credit card companies could now help curb the flow of deadly weapons into the community, they wrote.

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Tags: for subscribers for subscribers the district attorney’s district attorney’s background checks law enforcement a ghost gun kit ghost guns ghost gun the flow los angeles

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Endorsements | Editorial: Taylor for Oakland mayor; Lowe, Joiner, Zazaboi for council

Click here for a complete list of our election recommendations.

With unacceptably high homelessness, crime and taxes, Oakland needs new elected leaders prepared with the analytical skills, politically savvy and determination to make fundamental change.

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Homelessness in the city has jumped 24% in the last three years, homicides in 2021 hit the highest level in 15 years and this year are nearly on pace for the same, Police Department staffing continues at inadequate levels, and the mayor and City Council are asking for yet another substantial property tax increase.

Oakland politics are not divided between Democrats and Republicans, or liberals and conservatives. Rather the battles are between progressives — those on the left, led by Mayor Libby Schaaf, and those on the far-left who now make up the City Council majority and are politically underwritten by key city labor unions.

It’s become a fight between those who want to hold police accountable but significantly bolster their badly depleted numbers and those who talked of defunding police two years ago and eventually settled on slow-walking efforts for more law enforcement.

Oakland City Council districts. 

There are general areas of agreement. Both sides emphasize the need for affordable housing, although they often differ on how to get there. And both sides are oblivious to the cost borne by property owners in biennial ballot measures to raise taxes — measures proposed despite the city’s steadily rising general fund revenues. Neither side has the political will to limit spending. The one thing both sides agree on is that they want more money.

It’s against that backdrop that, with Schaaf leaving office because of term limits, 10 candidates are vying to be the next mayor. And three council posts are up for grabs, two of which are open seats because the incumbents are running for the top job.

The Nov. 8 election could bring fundamental change — and it could go in either direction.

Those who want safer streets, housing of homeless people in humane ways, a police force with respectable numbers supplemented by help from non-sworn officers, and leaders who understand that tax revenues have limits should back Loren Taylor for mayor, Harold Lowe for City Council in District 2, Nenna Joiner in District 4 and Yakpasua Zazaboi in District 6.

Mayor: Loren Taylor

Of the 10 mayoral candidates, five, all current or former Oakland elected officials, are mounting serious campaigns. Taylor is the standout.

An Oakland native, he is a biomedical engineer and management consultant with an MBA. He left the corporate world to launch a consulting firm serving nonprofits and small businesses. His compassionate, thoughtful and measured approach combined with his keen analytical skills are exactly what Oakland needs for its top elected leader.

Taylor, who was first elected to the council in 2018, recognizes that the Police Department is substantially understaffed, and he rejects the notion that violence prevention programs should be pitted against funding for cops on the streets. Simply put, he says, we need both.

The other thoughtful candidate in the race is Treva Reid, first elected in 2020 to the seat her father, Larry Reid, held for 24 years and now halfway through her first term on the City Council. She and Taylor have been politically aligned on many issues as members of the more moderate faction of the council.

Reid, a former senior aide to Nancy Skinner when the state senator was in the Assembly, is direct and hard-working. She calls for more police officers and more help under a new city program in which firefighters respond to mental health calls. She’s rightly critical of city leaders’ failure to spend money efficiently and transparently on city services and homeless programs.

Taylor and Reid are clearly the best candidates in the field. Voters should mark them as their first and second choices under the city’s ranked-choice voting system. We make no recommendation for the third ranked-choice selection.

Gregory Hodge, a former Oakland School Board member, lawyer and group facilitator specializing in race and equity issues, was the most impressive of the other candidates. He wants to bridge the divides in the city, ensure that police show up when residents call about gunfire in their neighborhood and provide more accountability for how tax dollars are being spent. But he was fuzzy on a simple question of how city property taxes are assessed.

Ignacio De La Fuente’s 20 years on the Oakland City Council, from 1992-2012, undercut his claims to be a careful manager of the public purse. He backed an ill-fated bonding plan to cover the city’s pension debt, was part of the Oakland Coliseum board that approved a sweetheart deal with the Raiders and ran roughshod over the city’s competitive bidding process.

Current Councilwoman Sheng Thao was among the council majority that in June 2020 rebuffed Schaaf’s proposal to increase the number of training academies to speed up police hiring. In our interview with her, she demonstrated a stunning lack of knowledge about the basics of property taxes, including the Measure U bond proposal she voted to put on the upcoming ballot.

As for the other five candidates: We ruled out Peter Liu for many reasons, including his call for more people to carry guns and his anti-Semitic email tirade about a temple that didn’t include him in its candidate forum. Seneca Scott faces unresolved criminal charges, reported by The Oaklandside, for carrying a concealed gun and exhibiting the weapon in a threatening manner. Socialist John Reimann says the Police Department is overstaffed. Allyssa Victory Villanueva says the department has enough cops. And Tyron Jordan was unable to attend our interview due to a schedule conflict.

Oakland needs a mayor with experience, analytical skills and empathy to lead and heal the city. That’s Taylor.

Harold Lowe  District 2: Harold Lowe

Incumbent Nikki Fortunato Bas, the current president of the City Council and a member of the far-left majority, deserves credit for trying to find compromise with the more moderate mayor.

But, as was the case when she ran for office four years ago, Bas remains weak on her ability to discuss the city’s financial and tax issues. And it was Bas who issued a press release last year deceptively claiming the Police Department was receiving large funding increases. This came as she and her hard-left council allies were paring back the mayor’s request for more police training academies — a move they eventually had to reverse as the city’s homicide numbers kept increasing.

It’s time for a council member who can better handle the numbers, and who understands the need to increase the number of Oakland cops. That’s challenger Harold Lowe, who entered the race late and is probably a long-shot but deserves serious consideration. Lowe is a financial planner and diversity, equity and inclusion consultant.

The Oakland native is blunt about the city’s dreadful crime rate and the failure of the City Council to address it: “It wasn’t like this when I was growing up. It doesn’t seem like it’s going to change with the current political climate. It isn’t normal.”

Nenna Joiner  District 4: Nenna Joiner

Joiner, a small business owner, and Janani Ramachandran, an attorney, are vying for the District 4 seat, which Thao is vacating to run for mayor.

A 27-year Oakland resident, Joiner has served on the city’s Violence Prevention and Landmarks Preservation boards. She understands firsthand the problems downtown Oakland small-businesses owners face, the importance of carefully managing finances and the need to adapt to challenging times like the pandemic. A technology security analyst, Joiner transitioned 13 years ago to open a sex-toy store in Oakland.

She kept her business afloat, and all six of her workers employed, during the pandemic by migrating much of it online and taking advantage of her supply sources to procure masks, gloves, thermometers and other essential items for construction companies, hospitals and nursing homes.

Which helps explain her campaign emphasis on fiscal accountability. Solving the city’s crime and homeless problems, she says, comes down to money, properly managing the funds available to ensure that Oakland can hire enough cops and provide sufficient services. It’s the sort of businesslike oversight needed on the City Council.

Ramachandran, a social justice attorney who ran unsuccessfully for state Assembly in a special election last year, is smart and articulate, but she lacks the real-life business experience Joiner would add to the council.

Yakpasua Zazaboi  District 6: Yakpasua Zazaboi

Four candidates are running for the District 6 seat, which Taylor is vacating to run for mayor.

Zazaboi, who has lived in East Oakland for 20 years and opened his information technology company there 11 years ago, is our pick. His company, Sydewayz, stepped up during the pandemic to help deliver virtual classes to Oakland students.

If elected, he wants to improve public safety, tackle blight, improve traffic safety and focus on economic development and education. He wants more accountability for public spending. And he said crime prevention programs are important, but the city also needs more police.

“When people started yelling about defunding the police, we in East Oakland knew that wasn’t the solution,” says Zazaboi, who is passionate about the potential of the district and the need to reduce crime on the streets there.

We recommend a No. 2 vote under Oakland’s ranked-choice voting system for Kevin Jenkins, the director of housing justice for United Way Bay Area, who was elected without opposition in 2020 to the Peralta Community College District board. If elected, Jenkins would be a part of the hard-left council faction but at least has some government leadership experience.

The other two candidates are tax preparer Nancy Sidebotham, who regularly runs unsuccessfully for city offices, and real estate agent Kenny Sessions, who frequently answers questions by saying he would turn to others for advice. That’s hardly reassuring.

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