Tracking California’s Guns: A San Diego Perspective

It's no secret, some criminals get their guns Illegally. It's happening in California and here in San Diego County.

In an unprecedented collaboration NBC 7 Investigates worked with NBC stations throughout the state to track stolen guns. Where they come from, where they end up and the crimes they're used in.

According to the California Department of Justice, nearly 70,000 firearms were reported lost or stolen from January 1, 2010 to September 30, 2015. The vast majority reported stolen.

In that nearly five year period, more than 2,600 lost or stolen guns were used in crimes.

Large Agencies like Los Angeles' Police and Sheriff's Department's refused to provide details about the guns they confiscated from criminals and crime scenes in that five year period. Local agencies though, including the San Diego Sheriff's Department and San Diego, La Mesa and Chula Vista Police Departments, did provide data.

It shows, 235 guns were reported lost, another 2,445 stolen. Of those, 270 were associated with crimes within San Diego County.

Compare that to the Los Angeles area where more than 10,000 guns were reported lost or stolen.

In the Sacramento area, more than 3,600 were reported lost or stolen and in the Stockton area, nearly 2,500.

Statewide, at least 32 different lost or stolen guns were later used in attempted homicides or homicides. One in San Diego.

Joseph Hill was sentenced to 247 years behind bars for killing Linda Vista resident, Sean O'Toole. The gun used by Hill was reported missing to SDPD in 2010, three years before O'Toole's murder.

While experts say preventing criminals from a life of crime is not always possible. There are steps gun owners can take.

“It's extremely important, if you lose a gun or your gun is stolen, notify law enforcement right away,” Jan Caldwell a spokesperson with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department said. “That gun's serial number will be put into the NCIC system, the national system. That way when heaven forbid it's used in a crime, we know the source of that weapon.”

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