SACRAMENTO — Attorney General Kamala D. Harris recently applauded Governor Jerry Brown for signing a bill that provides $24 million for a Department of Justice program that takes firearms out of the hands of individuals who are prohibited by law from owning them.
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“California is leading the nation in a common-sense effort to protect public safety by taking guns away from dangerous, violent individuals who are prohibited by law from owning them,” said Attorney General Harris. “These funds will allow the Department of Justice to increase the number of agents conducting these smart and effective operations. I commend Governor Brown for signing this critical public safety investment into law.”
Senate Bill 140, which takes effect immediately, will allow the Attorney General to hire 36 additional agents for the Armed and Prohibited Persons program (APPS). It will enable the Department of Justice to increase enforcement operations in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, Fresno and Riverside.
California is the only state with a program like APPS, which identifies people who previously purchased one or more guns, but are later prohibited from owning them. A person becomes prohibited if he or she is convicted of a felony or a violent misdemeanor, is placed under a domestic violence restraining order or is determined to be mentally unstable.
Senate Bill 140, by Senator Mark Leno, appropriates $24 million to the Department of Justice from a fund created by fees paid by gun owners at the time of purchase to hire additional agents and support staff.
“I applaud Governor Brown for signing into law this important legislation that addresses California’s growing backlog of illegally possessed firearms,” said Senator Leno, D- San Francisco. “While our state is the only one in the nation that has a system to track and identify persons who at one time made legal purchases of firearms but are now barred from possessing them, until now we have lacked sufficient resources to take back those weapons. We know for the safety of our communities that these people should not possess guns, and our reinvestment in this tracking program gives us the opportunity to confiscate them.”
Upon taking office in 2011, Attorney General Harris added 10 agents to the program, making a total of 33, in order to increase the number of guns confiscated from prohibited persons. Over the last two years, DOJ agents have investigated nearly 4,000 people and seized nearly 4,000 weapons, including nearly 2,000 handguns and more than 300 assault weapons. In the first three months of 2013, agents have collected 461 firearms and 23,080 rounds of ammunition.
The APPS database cross-references five databases to identify those who legally purchased handguns and registered assault weapons since 1996 with people who are prohibited from owning or possessing firearms.
The database was completed in November 2006, and the first statewide sweep was conducted in 2007.
When Attorney General Harris took office, she directed Department of Justice agents to conduct daily enforcement activities with the support of local law enforcement.
In January, Attorney General Harris sent a letter to Vice President Biden urging the APPS program to be considered as a national model. In February, she announced her support for U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson’s legislation to create a national grant program that will allow other states to start their own APPS programs.