San Diego Police Department Sees Rise In 'Ghost Guns'
Speaker 1: 00:00 Authorities are still trying to make sense of last week's deadly shooting that killed one and injured four in San Diego's Gaslamp district. As more details emerge, police have said that the weapon used in the incident was a ghost gun, a homemade untraceable firearm. Recently San Diego police, chief David Nesline said San Diego County had seen a 169% rise in ghost guns over the past year and increase many in law enforcement say connects to an increase in violent crime. Joining us to discuss the issue is KPBS freelance reporter Alexandra rainbow. Alexandra. Welcome. Speaker 2: 00:39 Thank you. Thank you for having me today. Speaker 1: 00:40 So what can you tell us about ghost guns? Where are they coming from and what kind of problems are they presenting for law enforcement? Speaker 2: 00:47 So it goes kinda as essentially a firearm that's sold in parts they're sold and advertised as these DIY kits that can be put together at home. These kids are 80% complete and you have to assemble the final 20%. Um, a key selling point is like you mentioned that they are not serialized, so they can't be traced back to the buyer or the manufacturer. Um, a traditional firearm requires a serial number. They also require a background check. So what's happening with the rise of these guns? Um, law enforcement is basically, they're going to these crime scenes and they're finding ghost guns, and they're not able to trace them back to the buyer or the manufacturer. So it is presenting a problem. And so basically criminals are getting their hands on these guns and they're able to fly in a sense under the, under the radar with them, Speaker 1: 01:38 The story you point to loopholes and firearm legislation in completely different States as a key factor in the rise of these ghost guns. What can you tell us about that? Speaker 2: 01:48 Yeah. So under federal law and individual building eight firearm, like these ghost guns for personal use, they're not required to market with a serial number. However, when it comes to different States like California, we have stricter gun laws. Um, in California, if you do have a ghost gun, you'll buy it 80% complete, but once you build it, once it's a hundred percent complete, you are required to register your gun with the department of justice. They will give you a unique serial number for your firearm. But most States in the us, they don't have the same regulations. Of course, as California, it's only a handful of States. Speaker 1: 02:26 We mentioned earlier, chief Nez light said they've seen a 169% increase in ghost guns across the County. Um, can you break that number down for us? I mean, are these guns that have actually been seized by SDPD and how many guns does that? 169% actually represent? I mean, how many ghost guns are we actually talking about here? Speaker 2: 02:47 Yeah, so that's a huge increase, right? 169%. And it's really in the year of 2020. So it will be go back to 2019 SDPD seized, 78 ghost guns and 2020, they seize 210 guns, which is where they saw that 169% increase. And so far this year, they actually took out some data. And just these four months they've seized 111 guns. So chief Ms. Light says that basically with the numbers, they're starting to see already this year, they're on track to see another increase of ghost guns in, in San Diego County. And Speaker 1: 03:23 Interesting part of this story is that of the 700 ghost guns that were retrieved up in Los Angeles last year, all of them were made from parts built by one single company in Nevada. Tell us more about this. I mean, how is this going? Unregulated? Speaker 2: 03:39 Yeah. So last year, um, the Los Angeles police department recovered 700 ghost guns. All of them were made with parts built by a company in Dayton, Nevada called Calimar 80, according to a city attorney, Mike Feuer polymer 80 is one of the nation's largest salaries of these ghost guns. And in LA last year, over 40% of guns recovered were actually ghost guns. So LA is starting to see a huge rise in ghost guns as well. And they're saying that the majority of these guns are coming from Nevada. Basically this company polymer 80, which is in Nevada, they're able to sell guns to California residents. And in Nevada, they don't have that law where you have to register your gun with the DOJ, but in California, you do. Um, but what's happening is people are buying these ghost guns and they're not registering their guns. Once they assemble them a hundred percent complete, they're not registering them with the DOJ. Speaker 1: 04:33 Biden is expected to make a number of executive orders, limiting the sale and availability of ghost guns. What are the arguments from gun rights advocates? Speaker 2: 04:42 So one of the executive orders that, um, Biden has presented is regulating these ghost guns. He wants these kids to be treated as a firearm, and he wants to require these parts to have serial numbers. Um, and of course there has already been pushed back from gun rights advocates. I mean, for them it's they feel like it's an infringement on their second amendment, right? And any sort of gun control that is trying to be pushed out there. They're not in favor of as they believe that more needs to be done to prevent criminals from getting their hands on firearms. So I spoke to the executive director of San Diego County gun owners, Michael shorts. And what he told me is he thinks more needs to be done, to stop criminals from getting their hands on these ghost guns versus making these what he calls parts or metal parts illegal. And he referenced back to, to our laws here in California, we do have stricter gun laws yet. We still have people getting their hands on ghost guns, criminals getting their hands on ghost guns. So he doesn't think more regulations are going to help stop these guns from getting into the hands of criminals. Speaker 1: 05:52 I've been speaking with KPBS, freelance reporter, Alexandra Wrangell, Alexandra. Thank you so much. Speaker 2: 05:59 Thank you. Thank you for having me.