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ATF seizes 165 firearms, including 82 ghost guns, in San Diego operation

A three-month operation by federal law enforcement officers and the San Diego Police Department resulted in the seizure of 165 firearms, including 82 “ghost guns” that do not have serial numbers. series and are suspected to be of private manufacture, authorities said on Wednesday.

The campaign – which lasted from February 1 to May 1 and was led by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives – resulted in the prosecution of at least 29 people, some suspected of illegal manufacture, sale or possession of firearms, and others suspected of committing drug offenses, officials said at a morning news conference.

About two-thirds of those defendants are being prosecuted in U.S. District Court, mostly on firearms charges, while the rest have been charged with drug offenses in San Diego Superior Court, it said. authorities.

“Guns, drugs and violence go hand in hand,” US attorney Randy Grossman told reporters. About half of the seized weapons and related items were displayed on nearby tables, including short-barreled shotguns, silencers and handguns modified with “Glock switches” to make them fully automatic.

These short-barreled rifles were among the weapons on display Wednesday.

(Alex Riggins/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Grossman said firearms seized in the operation “were either illegally owned, used in an alleged crime or found at a crime scene.”

Ghost guns, which are often built from pre-packaged parts purchased online, are of concern to law enforcement as they are difficult to track due to the lack of a serial number. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, about a quarter of the guns San Diego police recovered from crime scenes in 2021 were ghost guns. San Diego County law enforcement saw a 401% increase in ghost gun recoveries between 2019 and 2021, the office added.

For now, these guns remain illegal, though Second Amendment groups have launched lawsuits in San Diego and Nevada against laws banning self-made guns and their precursor parts.

Among the weapons on display Wednesday were those an undercover ATF agent allegedly purchased from Marine Lance Cpl. Christian Ferrari. The Camp Pendleton-based Marine was charged three weeks ago in federal court in San Diego with three counts of trafficking firearms without a license, for allegedly selling 12 AR-15 type ghost guns and two counts of possession of unregistered firearms in connection with the alleged sale of 10 short-barreled rifles.

Grossman also pointed to the case of another defendant charged with assaulting a federal officer and other firearms offenses. According to court records from his case, the man allegedly robbed an undercover officer at gunpoint in the parking lot of the Serra Mesa Walmart on Murphy Canyon Road.

Prosecutors allege the man agreed to sell a handgun that had been illegally modified to become fully automatic to an undercover officer. But as the two nearly finished the sale in the back seat of a car, the man allegedly readied the gun to fire and shoved it against the officer’s rib cage. “Get the (expletive) out of the car, dog, before I smoke you,” the man allegedly threatened the officer before stealing the money.

Jose Medina, one of the assistant special agents in charge of the ATF’s Los Angeles field office, which covers San Diego, said most illegal firearm sales are done through online advertising, usually on social networks.

Jose Medina, assistant special agent in charge of the ATF's Los Angeles field office, speaks at a press conference on Wednesday

Jose Medina, an assistant special agent in charge of the ATF’s Los Angeles field office, speaks at a press conference Wednesday about dozens of firearms and firearm components seized during a recent operation run by the ATF. Standing next to him, left to right, are San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria; San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit; US Attorney Randy Grossman and Assistant US Attorney Matt Brehm.

(Alex Riggins/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Medina said officers used those messages, along with intelligence gathered from San Diego police crime reports and other sources, to guide their investigations and identify what Grossman described as “hot spots.” historical hot spots in San Diego for phantom gun seizures”.

Medina said the agency then “inserted ATF agents, paired with San Diego police detectives, into those areas, and saturated those areas, to really target those individuals.”

California Daily Newspapers

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