California officials announced in a press release that they had seized guns from people who were legally prohibited from possessing guns they had once legally purchased.
The seizures came from people convicted of crimes, people who may have been hospitalized due to mental illness or threatened suicide, or people who were the subject of a restraining order. Officials identified 23,869 people on the list, they said, and seized 1,437 firearms.
In a state of nearly 40 million people, with about 3.35 million registered gun owners and 20 million legal guns, how significant is that number?
You could be forgiven for making fun of it, said violence prevention advocate Julia Weber; she has a unique view. She is currently the director of the National Center on Gun Violence in Relationships and was the supervising attorney for the Judicial Council of California for nearly 18 years. That council helped create the Armed and Prohibited Persons System, the California program that tracks people who are ineligible to own guns and orchestrates seizures.
Weber said the number makes sense, but the seizures are “low hanging fruit.”
“A significant number of the 24,000 people are banned for crimes,” she said. “Some are people with a criminal past. We need to do more to make sure that (the number of people on) that list gets lower.”
Among a segment of law enforcement personnel who regularly investigate gun crime – and who sometimes have guns in the hands of criminal suspects – the total number of firearms on the street exceeds seizures.
“Fifteen hundred guns in a state of 20 million (gun owners), I would like to know how much money was spent per gun,” said a police source who asked to remain anonymous. “Guns are everywhere. Almost everyone has a gun. It’s just the way it is.”
Still, the same source said the nearly 1,500 gun removals shouldn’t be dismissed as insignificant either. Of the firearms seized, 712 were pistols, 360 rifles, 194 shotguns, 80 assault weapons and 54 homemade “ghost weapons,” according to a press release from Attorney General Rob Bonta.
The number of seized ghost weapons — weapons composed of privately-made parts with no serial numbers, making them untraceable — marked a 38% increase from 2021 and a 575% increase from 2018, government officials said.
Authorities also recovered 308 large-capacity magazines and 2,123 standard-capacity magazines; 281,299 ammunition; 43 receivers or frames; three short-barreled shotguns and a machine gun.
“Regardless of who you’ve removed from having that gun, there’s still value to that moment when a situation arises and a person who might otherwise have been moved to use a gun doesn’t have it to use,” Concord Police Lieutenant Sean Donnelly said. “And that can play a positive role in a number of situations.”
Experts who spoke to Bay Area News Group noted that the number of people who ended up on the APPS list was significant: The nearly 24,000 people on the list who lost their guns were the highest number in the state, according to the state. the history of the program. DOJ.
Weber said that number is “inexcusable” because those who end up on the list have done so in some way that shows they’re not stable about having them. Those convicted of a felony are banned from owning a weapon in California for life. A felony conviction can lead to a 10-year suspension.
Those who have been threatened with suicide, taken to a hospital for a mental health call, have a restraining order against them may lose their eligibility to own a gun for a period of time.
But if the court issues that order, the gun is often not removed immediately, Weber said. That reality comes from a number of factors – from lack of manpower to remove them to simple mistakes.
And if there are any mistakes regarding people on this list, forget about monitoring all unlicensed guns used in more violent crimes by people who have shown themselves to be more violent.
“That’s another problem,” Weber said. “Gun violence is very diverse. You have gang shootings, accidental shootings, domestic violence, suicide, accidental. Police shootings. Shootings involving youths, where the guns are unlocked. So you’re talking about a huge marketplace.
“But this, what APPS is doing is a very specific issue for which the DOJ should be commended for investing heavily in this policy. When people fall through the cracks, we’re lucky to have a team that can spot who fell through the cracks. No other state has this ability.”
The gun seizure announcement came after the state DOJ awarded approximately $4.9 million to sheriff’s offices in 10 counties, including those in Contra Costa, San Francisco, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz, to support enforcement related to the removing firearms and ammunition from people on the banned list.
Sheriff’s offices across the state contribute manpower to the program, and members of specific agencies within those counties help run it. In one Bay Area sweep last year, APPS seized 30 guns and made eight arrests.
For low hanging fruit it was a pretty healthy yield. Weber said there must be more.
“Where I find hope is that the majority of gun owners want to see common sense gun laws to reduce gun violence,” she said. “And this, in its role, does that.”