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San Diego Police Department Sees Rise In 'Ghost Guns'

Police cars parked in the Gaslamp District following a fatal shooting, April 22, 2021.
Jared Aarons/10 News
Police cars parked in the Gaslamp District following a fatal shooting, April 22, 2021.
New data released from SDPD shows convicted felons are getting their hands on ghost guns, which cannot be traced.

Last week a downtown San Diego shooting killed one person and wounded four. Now the San Diego Police Department is sounding the alarm about the increase of ghost guns — homemade, unserialized guns — it is seeing on the streets.

SDPD said a ghost gun was used in last Thursday's fatal shooting.

Ghost guns are easy to get and they’re practically untraceable. Legal loopholes in some states, including Nevada, allow gun makers to sell them without serial numbers. San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit said San Diego County had seen a 169% rise in ghost guns.


As of April 1, a total of 492 guns have been impounded by San Diego police. Of those, 111 have been ghost guns.

VIDEO: San Diego Police Department Sees Rise In Ghost Guns

Last year, Los Angeles police recovered more than 700 ghost guns from crime scenes around the city. All of them were made with parts built by a company from Dayton, Nevada called Polymer80.

Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer is leading a lawsuit against Polymer80. He told CapRadio, a public radio station in Sacramento, that legislation is needed to force them to change the way they market their products.

“It would likely reduce the prevalence of those guns dramatically," Feuer said. "The reason that criminals want ghost guns is because they’re not easily traceable, because they lack serial numbers.”

As local law enforcement combats the increase in guns on the streets, the Biden administration is also looking to add gun restrictions. This month President Joe Biden introduced a series of executive orders to limit the selling of ghost guns following deadly shootings in Colorado and Atlanta.


There is resistance from gun rights advocates.

Local gun advocate and executive director of San Diego County Gun Owners, Michael Schwartz, said adding more restrictive laws won’t solve the problem at hand.

“The executive order; what he's hoping to do is create laws regarding home manufacturing firearms that mirror California laws to spread them to the other 49 states," he said. "But again, what Chief Nisleit is showing is that these laws that already exist in California aren’t making a difference."

In California it is illegal to have a ghost gun or manufactured gun that has not been registered with the Department of Justice.

The DOJ requires self-made firearms to have a unique serial number, but many aren't complying with the law.

“We really need to do things like stop and prevent individuals from committing crimes instead of chipping away and making metal illegal, which is in effect what they are trying to do,” Schwartz said.

San Diego police said the individuals they are coming across with ghost guns are convicted felons with past criminal history, just like the gunman from Thursday’s shooting in the Gaslamp Quarter.

So far this year 52 convicted felons have been arrested for being in possession of a firearm compared to 154 people in 2020.

San Diego Police Department Sees Rise In ‘Ghost Guns’
Listen to this story by Alexandra Rangel.

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