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Authorities saw a decrease in ghost gun seizures in 2022 than in 2021

Over the past four years, the Sheriff’s Department collected 647 ghost guns, representing a 277% increase from 2019 to 2021, but 2022 marked the first annual decrease over the past four years.
Ghost guns are unserialized and untraceable firearms that can be bought online and assembled at home. They are often sold through "ghost gun kits," which include all of the parts and often the equipment necessary to build these weapons at home.

San Diego County Sheriff's office saw a dip in ghost gun seizures last year by about 30 percent when compared to 2021, according to an annual report on Gun Violence presented to the San Diego County Board of Supervisors. 

The Sheriff’s Department seized 187 privately made non-serialized guns, also known as ghost guns, last year. This represents a 29% decrease from 2021 when 264 ghost guns were seized. 

Over the past four years, the Sheriff’s Department collected 647 ghost guns, representing a 277% increase from 2019 to 2021, but 2022 marked the first annual decrease over the past four years. According to county officials, non-serialized weapons accounted for about 7% of all firearm seizures last year, down from 7.5% in 2021. 

In 2022, there were 141 firearm-related suicide deaths, a 3.5% increase from the previous year. Conversely, homicides that involved a firearm declined by 17% from 2021 to 2022. Lakeside and San Marcos saw the highest recovery totals with 30 ghost guns recovered in each city, according to Sheriff’s Department Data.  

“I really think that gun violence is a public healthcare issue that we need to look at from an evidence-based solutions perspective to reduce firearms and prevent further deaths and mass shootings,” county Supervisor Nora Vargas said during Tuesday’s board meeting.

On January 11, 2022, the county passed an ordinance to make it illegal to buy, sell, trade, or distribute ghost guns, including those created by 3D printing, throughout the region. 

The Sherriff’s Department has participated in a California Grant, Gun Violence Reduction Pilot Program for Disarming Prohibited Persons Team from 2019 through 2022 that focused on identifying and contacting individuals throughout the region who were prohibited from owning or possessing firearms for a variety of reasons but were still shown in the California Department of Justice database as having the firearm registered to them

Although the grant funding for that program ended on June 30, 2022, the Sheriff’s Department continued to conduct operations monthly focusing on different command areas throughout the county. According to county officials, this effort has led to the confiscation of 76 firearms, including some that were not serialized, and over 300 firearms were cleared administratively, either through a transfer or sale, and were confirmed by the Sheriff’s Department to be legally out of the hands of prohibited persons.

The county District Attorney’s Office said it is cracking down on ghost guns by prosecuting the possession of non-serialized weapons as a misdemeanor or felony. The DA's office has charged cases involving more than 200 ghost guns since 2019. At least 20 of those cases involved violent crimes like murder or attempted murder.

The Sherrif’s Department also highlighted its “Guns for Gift Cards” events throughout the county to get firearms off the street in partnership with the San Diego County District Attorney’s office and various cities throughout the region. From 2021 to 2022 the Sheriff’s Department conducted six events and collected a total of 1,527 firearms. 

The report was presented as a part of the county’s effort to understand the impact of gun violence throughout the region. County officials said it has conducted seven listening sessions in December and November to hear the thoughts, experiences, and perspectives of gun violence. 

The County recently launched a survey last week in an effort to continue gathering community input. The survey is available to the public until Feb.15 and can be found on the county’s Gun Violence Reduction Project website.