Bay Area police chief says rise in assault rifles, ghost guns used to 'hunt and kill' people

ByKen Miguel and Phil Matier KGO logo
Friday, July 2, 2021
Bay Area in midst of gun violence epidemic, police say
Bay Area police say we're in the midst of a gun violence epidemic. And it isn't just in the big cities like SF or Oakland, but smaller ones, too.

HAYWARD, Calif. (KGO) -- Police around the region say we are in the midst of an epidemic of gun violence the likes of which we have not seen in decades. And it isn't just in the big cities like San Francisco or Oakland, but the smaller ones, too.

Our ABC7 News Insider Phil Matier has been talking to local law enforcement agencies to see what they are finding and what police say they need to stop it.

One veteran is Hayward Police Chief Toney Chaplin, who knows what it's like to work in a big city. On the streets of his suburban town, guns are becoming the solution to arguments big and small, often with deadly consequences.

In the old days, just 15 to 20 years ago, those guns were small. Now they are as powerful as those carried by soldiers going into war. Only this war is on our city streets.

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In 1990, San Francisco was seeing a surge in violence. What kind of guns were they seeing then?

"We were seeing a lot of shotguns and a lot of handguns just like this a revolver," Chaplin said. "And coincidentally, this was the first weapon I was issued in the police academy."

It's quite a leap from the old six shooter to the assault rifles of today.

"Absolutely, you'd be reloading with this thing several times before whoever was holding this weapon had to reload once," Chaplin said holding up an assault rifle.

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And what are these weapons now being used for?

"Basically to hunt and kill other people," Chaplin said.

"This is a 100 round drum," Chaplin said while holding up a 100 round magazine clip. "And this thing feeds in and you have rounds just circling through and firing. I mean, you can sit there and fire for probably a good minute or two before you have to reload this thing."

These types of guns were illegal until 2004, when the federal assault rifle ban expired. Attempts to renew the legislation has failed to make its way through Congress. Today, they can be found on the streets around the Bay Area.

"This is why police want to get those guns off the street," said Chaplin, while sitting in front of a video monitor and looking at a 100 round shoot out that occurred in Hayward last May.

The Hayward Police Department is still looking for the gunmen in the video from a local recording studio. The chief agrees there needs to be more done to keep guns out of the hands of people who should never have access to them. But he says those that do have them and use them against other people need to be locked up.

"For crimes like you just witnessed right here, you have to remove folks like this from the community," he said. "Over 100 rounds fired. You saw how many people ran out of this place, and several of them limped out and several of them were carried out. There was no thought of women or children being in this establishment. The only thought was, 'I am going to kill my target.'"

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But assault rifles are not the only weapons police are confiscating. Ghost guns are homemade firearms that are completely untraceable.

"You can order these kits and you can make these guns in your home," Chaplin said.

How much would something like this go for out of a garage?

"Anywhere from $0 to $800 depending on what city you are in," Chaplin said.

He went onto say, "(Rifles) are a little more expensive. Just obviously because you are packing more firepower. But you are probably talking close to $800 to $1,000."

Chaplin says his officers work hard to keep these guns out of the hands of parolees or people who are not supposed to have them, but often it appears to be fruitless.

"We'll arrest the person for the gun," he said. "And unfortunately, sometimes they beat us home for dinner."

According to the chief, taking the guns away doesn't take away the intentions of the person who had the weapon in the first place. Many times the intended target is not the person shot, but innocent bystanders caught in the middle.

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"You hear across our county and other counties, some poor unsuspecting man, just north of here, walking out to get his mail, a stray bullet hit him in the head and killed him," Chaplin said.

So what to do?

"That's the age old question," said Chaplin. "First and foremost, you have to allow us to do our job. And then the second piece is we have to have our legislators tighten this thing up and start making these serious crimes because they're leading to catastrophic issues in our communities. We're losing a lot of our young folks to gun violence, because these things are all over our streets right now."

Take a look at all of ABC7's Building a Better Bay Area stories and videos here.