The number of so-called “ghost guns” seized by law enforcement in San Diego County is on the rise, up more than 200 percent from 2017 to 2018.
Ghost guns are homemade guns that don’t have serial numbers and are untraceable.
What happened in Riverside County Monday when a convicted felon using a homemade gun shot and killed a CHP officer is eerily close to what happened in San Diego in June of last year when San Diego police were ambushed while responding to a call of someone in distress.
Both involve a shootout between law enforcement and convicted felons using so called ghost guns.
The man who ambushed Sn Diego officers, 28-year-old Joseph Darwish, opened fire with a homemade rifle. Darwish had a felony conviction and was restricted from buying a gun.
Gun stores sell parts to repair or make handguns or rifles. Parts can also be purchased online and assembled at home. The online kits are unregulated. Hobbyists buy the kits or the parts to make guns. But law enforcement says felons and gang members are also getting their hands on ghost guns.
NBC 7 Investigates contacted every law enforcement agency in the county.
In 2018, the San Diego Police Department seized 100 ghost guns compared to just 10 in 2017. The total number of ghost guns in the county went from 74 in 2017 to 228 in 2018.
“You have bad guys out there who are going to do bad things, no matter what the law is, so changing the law is not going to help this kind of situation,” said Lenny Magill, owner of Glock Store in San Diego.
Los Angeles Assemblyman Mike Gibson would disagree. He said anyone can make a gun.
Under existing law, people must register their homemade guns with the state, but said it’s an honor system.
“Let’s really make it honest,” he said to NBC 7 Investigates in May. Gibson has proposed stricter legislation on the parts used to make these homemade guns. He suggests only licensed, registered dealers sell those pieces, allowing law enforcement to track them. The legislation is still pending.