American and California Flags outside of a government building Downtown San Diego on a sunny morning.
The California flag flies alongside the U.S. flag / Photo by Craig Marolf on Unsplash

Report: California Seized Guns From Thousands of Prohibited Possessors, Tens of Thousands Remain at Large

The Golden State managed to take firearms away from a significant number of people who weren’t legally allowed to have them last year, but more than 20,000 more remained beyond the state’s reach.

On Monday, California’s Department of Justice (DOJ) released its 2023 report on the Armed and Prohibited Persons System (APPS). In it, the state laid out the details of its efforts to round up guns from people it knows once bought guns but who have since been barred from owning them. Law enforcement officials were able to remove more people from the list, by rounding up their guns or verifying they didn’t have any, than new prohibited possessors were added to it for the second year in a row. All in all, they removed more than 9,000 people from the APPS and seized more than 1,400 firearms.

“I take great pride in the efforts of our Special Agents as they work diligently to protect and serve the citizens of California,” Attorney General Rob Bonta (D.) said in a statement. “These courageous individuals are saving lives. They may not always receive public recognition, but their tireless commitment is proactively preventing incidents of gun violence by removing illegally possessed firearms from our communities.”

However, the list of people California suspects own guns illegally is at least twice as long as the number it was able to check off in 2023. That underscores just how difficult it is for government officials in the United States to confiscate firearms, even under ideal circumstances.

California’s list of prohibited gun possessors is primarily made up of those convicted of felonies or domestic violence misdemeanors, the dangerously mentally ill, and those subject to domestic violence restraining orders. They make up less than one percent of California gun owners, according to the report. And every one of them has previously registered a gun with the state.

Yet, the report shows there are 23,451 people California suspects illegally own a gun, but it couldn’t track down. That number shrunk from last year, but only by 1.75 percent.

The DOJ report found half of the people left on the APPS list are convicted felons. 21 percent fell into a federal gun prohibition. Another 20 percent were included because of “mental health-triggering events.” 14 percent had a restraining order taken out against them that triggered a gun ban. Another 10 percent had a misdemeanor conviction that barred them from gun ownership in the state, and two percent couldn’t own guns because of probation conditions.

DOJ also said it managed to confiscate a number of guns from people on the APPS list that weren’t registered to them under state law.

“In 2023, DOJ recovered 1,443 firearms through APPS operations/seizures,” the report said. “Of these, 901 (62%) were firearms identified in the APPS database and 542 (38%) were non-APPS firearms. Non-APPS firearms are those not known to be associated with the prohibited person but are found in that person’s possession.”

The system, which has been in place since 2006, is among the only in the country. It has faced consistent criticism for the long backlog of suspected prohibited possessors. But Bonta argued the new report shows the state is making progress, and he committed to doing more to address the issue.

“As the primary law enforcement official for California, my utmost priority is upholding public safety and protecting our communities from the looming threat posed by gun violence,” he said. “When firearms fall into the wrong hands, it endangers all of us. We will persist in collaborating with the Governor’s Office, Legislature, and local partners to effectively tackle this issue of gun violence head-on.”

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Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019


Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

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