State took 2,000 guns from illegal owners in 2012

California may have a sizeable leg up on other states in taking guns away from mentally ill people who are barred by law from owning them.

State Attorney General Kamala Harris said Tuesday that more than 2,000 firearms were seized in 2012 from people in California who were legally barred from possessing them, including mentally unstable people and those with active restraining orders. She noted the state has clear laws determining who can and can’t possess firearms based on their threat to public safety.

“Enforcing those laws is crucial because we have seen the terrible tragedies that occur when guns are in the wrong hands,” she said, referring to a mentally ill gunman’s spree Friday at a Connecticut elementary school that claimed 26 lives, including 20 children.

Harris said 33 state Department of Justice agents used its Armed Prohibited Persons System (APPS) database to identify convicted felons, people with active restraining orders, people determined to be mentally unstable and others barred from owning guns. Agents seized 2,033 firearms, 117,000 rounds of ammunition, and 11,072 illegal high-capacity magazines from Jan. 1 through Nov. 30, with most of the firearms seized during two six-week sweeps.

The first statewide sweep targeted people barred from gun ownership because of mental health issues, and the second focused on people with legally registered assault weapons who were later prohibited from owning them.

Harris last year sponsored SB 819, carried by state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, to increase funding for the APPS program through the use of existing regulatory fees collected by gun dealers; the new law took effect at the start of this year.

The APPS database cross-references people who legally bought handguns and registered assault weapons since 1996 with people who are prohibited from owning or possessing firearms. APPS was launched in November 2006, and the first statewide sweep was conducted in 2007. California is the nation’s first and only state to have created such a database.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • John W

    Based on national gun ownership figures, there are probably about 40 million guns in circulation in California. I wonder how many of those are illegally possessed. I also wonder how many are of the high capacity magazine, rapid fire variety — which can be either a handgun or a rifle. A Georgia GOP congressman who is far more pro-gun than I am made a good point today when he noted we should focus on the capability of the weapon, not its style. He claimed the Bushmaster used in Newtown would not have been considered an “assault rifle” under either the expired national assault weapons ban or Connecticut’s existing ban.

  • JAFO

    True enough, John. So, that leaves legislators with the irresistible temptation, but impossible job, to once again attempt to outlaw “ugly weapons.” A first year law student could draft a compelling argument that such a law would be unduly vague and totally arbitrary. Talk about the eye of the beholder. The Sandy Hook School massacre gives new meaning to the words horrific and incomprehensible. I believe it’s time, indeed past time, to finally close the so-called gun show loophole, ban the sale of high-capacity magazines, and ensure that data intended to prevent legal firearms sales to unqualified purchasers is more readily available. That said, nobody should be lulled into a false sense of security that even such common sense steps will prevent such a tragedy from ever occurring again. And, no attempt to define and ban “ugly weapons” will ever survive judicial scrutiny.

  • Bruce Knopf

    Along with sensible regulation of guns ate federal level, I would like to see the Second Amendment abolished so that we settle the “inalienable constitutional right to own guns” issue definitively. The forefathers have not gotten everything completely right, that is why we have Amendments, to allow women the right to vote, etc.

    Times have changed. We have seen our government with checks and balances endure. AThe Second Amendment is no longer needed.

    It would be interesting to see public opinion polled on this question.

  • Elwood

    You go for it, Bruce!

    Things must be very interesting in your world.

  • Publius

    Blame the indian not the arrow.

    All of the bans being discussed would have done nothing to prevent the bad egg from killing those children in Newtown.

    A well regulated militia is the key phrase in the second ammendment. Militia membership should be encouraged. Each Militia should apply for a charter and be regulated by the state. The state should provide a set of rules that the Militia must abide by, i.e. back ground checks, drug tests, training, physical check ups, home gun storage etc….. The militia will police its own members and be self funded as not to burden the state. Militias that do not adhere to the guidlines will have their charter revoked. After passing the tests and getting accepted by the militia, the member can then own assault rifles and automatically be allowed to fulfill thier second ammendment right and be allowed to carry a concealed weapon. Any militia member involved in a gun incident will be subject to law, just like anyone else.

    Restrict gun ownership of non-militia members to hunting rifles and shotguns, with a limit of one handgun with a standard clip to each household. A non-militia member cannot own an assault rifle or carry a concealed weapon (or open carry).

    I belive that freedom is not free. Some rights granted by god and the constitution require work and a sense of public virtue. The State does not have the resources to police all gun owners, but each indiviual community does. Individuals have a responsibility to help secure their communities. Working with law enforcement and the state a militia can be a positive organization.

  • The Truth


    nothing in the second amendment protects anyone or any group of dillusional and paranoid indivduals to arm themselves to the teeth against a so-called ‘abusive’ government. article 1 section 8 gave the federal government complete power over these ‘militia’ (including dissolving them by not organizing them) and made the President the Commander and Chief over the militia’s. how funny no one wants to talk about that.

    in fact, gun ownership was not permitted to anyone who sympathized against the founding fathers nor the revolution they sought as well – guns were outlawed against anyone suspected of being a British loyalist, freedmen, and blacks. so in essense, it only allowed those who supported the government to arms. not what you would think was a check and balance against tyranny, is it?

  • John W

    Re: #3 Bruce KnopfSays

    It’s a complete nonstarter, but I share the sentiment. And there are actually a few commentators sticking their heads out and mentioning the “R” word.

    If we didn’t have a Second Amendment as applied by the Supreme Court, people would still have guns for hunting, sport and protection. But, as with automobiles, the conversation would be about what makes sense and not about the notion that keeping Glocks out of bars and college dorms is taking us down the slippery slope of tyranny.

    The Bill of Rights authors got it mostly right. The issues addressed are timeless and not of the moment. In my opinion, both the Second Amendment and the Third (quartering of soldiers) are exceptions. However, the Third does no harm. The Second Amendment, as applied in the modern world, does.

  • Elwood

    “mentioning the “R” word.”


  • John W


  • Publius

    RE #6

    “article 1 section 8 gave the federal government complete power over these ‘militia’ (including dissolving them by not organizing them) and made the President the Commander and Chief over the militia’s. how funny no one wants to talk about that.’

    Your statement is wrong. Re-read Article 1 section 8, whichj explains congresses “complete power over the militia”.

    Also re-read Article 2 section 2 that explains the Presidents power over the militia.

    As to your other comments, you obviously have a skewed view of the world and have little knowledge of American history.

    #7 and #9


    Repeal of the second ammendment will not work.
    Banning assault rifles will not work.

    The standard big government liberal idea of more regulation and more laws will not work. Believe it or not this problem is bigger than government, and has to be addressed at a local level.