San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit and Councilman Chris Ward
San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit and Assemblyman Chris Ward / Photos by Adriana Heldiz

The man who allegedly opened fire on five random bystanders in the Gaslamp Quarter this month used an untraceable ghost gun, a made-at-home firearm the usage of which SDPD Chief David Nisleit said is up 169 percent in the last year.

In Sacramento, Assemblyman Chris Ward has introduced a bill intended to curtail the phenomenon, though it’s unclear if or how much the legislation could address the problem.

Ghost guns, as Alain Stephens at The Trace outlined, are not usually made from scratch, or by 3D printers. Rather, they’re more often made from pre-made parts and assembled at home, a process that doesn’t require much expertise. That means they lack serial numbers that allow authorities to trace them.

Ward’s bill, AB 311, would ban the sale of the component parts used to assemble ghost guns at gun shows. Doing so would be a misdemeanor, and vendors who break it would be subject to a fine.

“Ghost guns undermine almost every gun law on the books because they are unregulated and unserialized,” said Amanda Wilcox, legislative chair of the gun violence prevention group Brady California, in a release sent by Ward’s office. “The sale of ghost gun kits at gun shows across the state allows the unmitigated flow of these firearms into communities all over the state, threatening public safety and obstructing the ability of law enforcement to solve crimes.”

While ghost gun use is increasing dramatically and they’ve been tied to other high-profile shootings, like a 2019 shooting in Riverside of a California Highway Patrol officer, Ward’s office could not say how much of their spread is tied to the sale of component parts at gun shows.

“Because these parts and kits are not serialized, and because there is a complete lack of regulation surrounding their sale, there is absolutely no way to know where a ghost gun part or kit was purchased,” Ansermio Jake Estrada, a Ward spokesman, told VOSD in January after the measure was introduced.

SDPD isn’t the only agency that has noted their increased prevalence, though. In 2019, the federal Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms told The Trace that 30 percent of all guns recovered by the agency were ghost guns.

The bill – which would cost the state’s general fund $272,000 in its first year and then a declining amount each year until leveling off at just $7,000 annually after its fourth year – went before the Assembly Appropriations Committee this week, and was placed in the so-called suspense file, where bills that require a certain amount of money go to either live or die. It will need to be taken up for further consideration by May 21, the Assembly’s fiscal deadline.

Andrew Keatts

DA Sponsors Charter Reform Bill Following A3 Scandal

Sweeping new charter school legislation – which had significant input from the San Diego district attorney’s office – moved forward in the Legislature Wednesday.

The proposed law would much more heavily regulate online and non-classroom-based charter schools, the Union-Tribune reported. Many of the proposed reforms were influenced by what happened in the A3 charter scandal, which was prosecuted by the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office.

The legislation, for instance, tightens up the auditing process for charter schools, which we previously revealed to have several flaws. It would require auditors to choose a certain amount of transactions for auditing and take education-related audit training. The bill would also close loopholes related to funding exposed by the A3 case. It would limit how much money online charters can get. (They currently are able to obtain as much as brick-and-mortar schools.) And it would eliminate multi-track calendars, which enabled part of the scam.

Charter school supporters are passionately opposed to the bill. They say it would create onerous and duplicative oversight procedures that unfairly target charters. Another bill, which would close some of the A3-exposed loopholes, is also still active.

Will Huntsberry

Gloria Joins Mayors Asking State for $4B in Homelessness Funding

Mayor Todd Gloria this week joined mayors across the state to urge Gov. Gavin Newsom and state lawmakers to commit to $4 billion in annual funding for homelessness for the next several years.

Gloria joined other Big City Mayors, a coalition made up the leaders of the state’s 13 largest cities, at a virtual Thursday press conference to reiterate the request after initial word that state Senate and Assembly leaders planned to move forward with the proposal.

Gloria and other Big City Mayors previously sent an April 8 letter to legislative leaders and budget committee chairs calling for a four-year funding commitment they argued the federal American Rescue Plan and the state’s projected $26 billion budget surplus made possible. Legislative leaders have since released plans that include $20 billion in homelessness funding over five years. Newsom is set to release his revised budget proposal next month.

Mayors across the state said a multi-year commitment with built-in flexibility for local governments would allow the state to make a dramatic dent in its homelessness crisis and allow local officials to scale up the interventions most needed in their communities.

If the money materializes, Gloria said he would focus on increasing the number of permanent supportive housing units in the city, a resource that San Diego has historically had fewer of per capita than other large cities in the country despite its large homeless population.

“That’s how you solve homelessness – housing plus services,” Gloria said.

The mayor said the city is also prepared to purchase hotels as it did last year with the help of state Project Homekey dollars that Newsom also incorporated in his January budget proposal.

Gloria said state dollars could also supply gap financing for homeless housing projects, or support shorter-term programs such as detoxification beds included in the mayor’s own budget proposal and so-called recuperative care programs where homeless San Diegans can recover after hospital stays.

Lisa Halverstadt

Republicans vs. Reform California

Carl DeMaio’s group Reform California is often at the fore of conservative issues and movements in the state: the (unsuccessful) effort to repeal the gas tax, the (semi-successful) effort to recall Sen. Josh Newman (DeMaio led a successful recall effort removing Newman from office, but Newman quickly won the seat back) and now the effort to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom.

In a fantastic piece this week, VOSD’s Andy Keatts examined Reform’s efforts and why Republicans up and down the state think the group does more to serve DeMaio himself than conservative causes.

“You see this pattern over a six-year period where he makes all these promises, and it ends up in the campaign not using all the money, he has a profit and moves on to the next campaign,” said Jim Lacy, a lawyer whose firm focuses on election and nonprofit law focused on political advocacy. He was a California delegate to the Republican National Conventions of both 1976 and 2016. “That was ‘Yes on 6,’ which lost, and the funds he didn’t spend could have been precious help to pass the initiative.”

But DeMaio isn’t the only one the recall’s leaders believe is latching onto the effort to promote themselves.

The Sacramento Bee reported this week that others are similarly being accused of latching onto the recall effort to advance their own causes or personal profiles.

Recall organizers knocked DeMaio, but also the Republican Governors Association and others raising money off the effort.

What’s DeMaio’s reaction to all this? “Forget Daylight Saving Time, I get my reminder to change the batteries in my smoke detectors every time the Left-wing Voice of San Diego puts out another one of their error-filled, false-narrative hit pieces against me. Like clockwork! #notrealjournalists”

What the Water Authority Wants in Sacramento

Last week I surveyed several San Diego agencies and groups on what bills they’re advocating for or opposing at the state level.

The San Diego County Water Authority wrote in with a list of the bills it’s supporting, and one it opposes:


  • AB 692 would extend the term for use and expenditure of a grant awarded to the city of Escondido for the replacement of Lake Wohlford dam.
  • AB 1403 would include public safety power shutoff as a condition constituting a state of emergency or local emergency.
  • SB 1 would direct the state’s Coastal Commission to take rising seas into account in its planning efforts and policies, and would establish a new group tasked with advising government agencies on addressing the problem.
  • SB 230 would require the State Water Resources Control Board to establish a dedicated program to assess the state of information and recommend areas for further study on the occurrence of constituents of emerging concern in drinking water sources and treated drinking water.
  • SB 351 would enact the Water Innovation Act of 2021 and create the Office of Water Innovation at the California Water Commission for the furtherance of new technologies and other innovative approaches in the water sector.


  • AB 1434 would statutorily lower the indoor residential water use standards from 55 gallons per capita per day (GPCD) to 40 GPCD by 2030.

Golden State News

Sara Libby was VOSD’s managing editor until 2021. She oversaw VOSD’s newsroom and content.

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