Nearly 4,000 guns are held as evidence in cardboard boxes, stored at the San Diego County Sheriff Department’s Crime Lab.
In San Diego County, a stolen gun used in a crime and confiscated by law enforcement, is returned to its rightful owner, destroyed or used in training by law enforcement.
Jan Caldwell, a spokeswoman for the San Diego Sheriff said, “When these guns are taken in as evidence, they're reviewed by a team of people. First of all they're rendered safe, then they're kept here throughout the full court proceedings of that case.”
Some are kept, maintained as evidence, for just a few months. Others, like those involved in homicide cases could be kept indefinitely.
“When the appeals have been completely exhausted, the weapons will be returned to their lawful owner,” said Caldwell.
If the weapon can't be returned to its rightful owner, they are sometimes destroyed.
“They are sent out to a facility north of here, they're melted down and the material from the melted guns goes into making rebar for freeway underpasses, new buildings,” said Caldwell.
Others are added to the Sheriff’s Department training room. Currently it holds 1,000 different firearms.
Caldwell says many of the training weapons were once in the hands of criminals.
“They are used by our deputies when they run across something on a scene where they need to render a weapon safe. They come over here quickly and get a lesson. An A-B-C if you will. It's a variety of weapons that span years and years. Older weapons, newer weapons, modified weapons; it's really a great cache.”
In a joint investigation with NBC TV stations in California, NBC 7 Investigates has been tracking lost and stolen guns throughout the state. To see the complete investigation, click here.