AP NEWS

10 charged in Los Angeles homemade gun ring

July 5, 2018
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Los Angeles police officer Howard Hwang loads firearms onto a cart after a news conference at the Hollywood Community Police Station Thursday, July 5, 2018, in Los Angeles. More than 40 firearms were seized in a recent joint task force operation, authorities said Thursday. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Ten people have been arrested in a takedown of a criminal ring that was producing homemade, untraceable handguns and rifles in Hollywood, police and federal agents said Thursday.

During a six-month undercover operation, Los Angeles police detectives and agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives had purchased dozens of so-called “ghost guns.” The homemade weapons contain no registration numbers that can be used to trace them.

In more than a dozen undercover buys, investigators purchased an array of firearms from homemade 9 mm pistols to AK-47-style rifles.

When investigators executed three search warrants last week, they also seized numerous high capacity magazines, drilling machines and other equipment used to make the homemade weapons and more than 3 pounds (1.36 kilograms) of methamphetamine.

While it is legal to build a gun in a home or a workshop, and advances in 3D printing and milling have made it easier to do so, selling one is not. Federal officials have been sounding the alarm about what they see as an increasing black market for homemade military-style semi-automatic rifles and handguns.

“This is a trend among Southern California gangs and we’re increasingly seeing that trend,” Bill McMullan said, the special agent in charge of ATF’s field office in Los Angeles. “Criminals are making their own weapons because they aren’t able to buy them legally.”

The 10 suspects who were arrested face a total of 47 felony charges, including manufacturing an assault rifle and conspiracy, police said.

“They were ending up in the hands of some of our most violent street gangs here in Los Angeles,” LAPD Cmdr. Blake Chow said. “It was so easy to order one it was almost ridiculous.”

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Follow Michael Balsamo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MikeBalsamo1 .

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