Removing guns from people who shouldn’t have them should be a no brainer, right? – Daily Breeze



In 2001, California’s Legislature passed a groundbreaking, bipartisan measure, intending to do just that, creating the Armed Prohibited Persons System. APPS identifies individuals who purchased firearms legally, then became prohibited from owning them due to criminal activity, mental illness or restraining orders. The Department of Justice, in coordination with local law enforcement, is mandated to track these people and seize firearms in their possession.

There are major problems with APPS. Coordination between state and local officials is inadequate. Courts have done little to ensure relinquishment orders are followed.

DOJ agents and their public safety partners have the difficult, dangerous jobs of knocking on doors and convincing armed, prohibited persons to relinquish their firearms. They deserve our appreciation and more support.

Ultimately, it’s a leadership failure by the state’s current and past two Attorneys General. Despite their rhetoric on gun violence and receiving $60 million in additional funding for APPS over the past ten years, they haven’t made APPS enforcement a priority.

This isn’t just academic. There are numerous examples of horrific, tragic crimes committed by people on the APPS list. For example, in November 2017, Kevin Neal of Rancho Tehama went on a shooting rampage, killing five people, then himself. Dozens more were wounded. Neal was on the APPS list and known to be mentally unstable and dangerous.

Analysis of the aftermath of high-profile shootings identifies a common thread: The shooters were known as dangerous, and authorities failed to identify and disarm them prior to their rampages. This is what APPS does – when it works.

The failure of California’s Attorneys General to enforce APPS has resulted in a current backlog of 26,539 cases in the database. Of them, a little over half have been investigated in some capacity but remain “Pending,” the rest are “Active,” under investigation and unresolved.

How did we get here?

In 2013, Attorney General Kamala Harris’ staff first acknowledged a growing backlog of some 20,000 APPS cases. DOJ staff testified at a joint legislative hearing that if given $24 million to increase staffing, the backlog could be cleared within a year. Based on that testimony, legislators passed a bipartisan bill allocating the funding and requiring DOJ to report annually on program staffing and progress clearing the backlog.

By December 2015, Attorney General Harris’ slow progress in clearing the backlog was evident – there were still 20,490 cases on the APPS list, and only 54 of 75 agent positions for the program were filled.

Senate Republicans’ many calls for an audit and oversight hearings to learn why the backlog remained largely went ignored.

Under Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s leadership, enforcement regressed. Despite increased APPS funding, in January 2018 there remained a backlog of 22,574 cases — 10,226 Active and 12,348 Pending.

Senate Republicans, concerned by the regression, met with Becerra in April 2018.  He committed to providing a plan to address the APPS backlog. That plan never materialized and the backlog continued to grow.

Current Attorney General Rob Bonta presented his first APPS report this March.  He spoke of clearing “more than 8,900 individuals from the APPS list” and seizing “almost 1,500 firearms” from them, calling it “a public safety success story.”

The real story is in the backlog numbers, which are higher than ever. Bonta, recognizing this problem, shamelessly tried to minimize the increased backlog by breaking out a new category of cases from the total – the incarcerated.

From the report: “As of January 1, 2022, the APPS database had 24,509 armed and prohibited persons and 1,130 additional armed and prohibited individuals who were incarcerated.”



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