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(LOS ANGELES) – Attorney General Bill Lockyer today announced his office seized a record number of illegal assault weapons from a Laguna Niguel gun dealer, resulting in the arrest of Ilya Yampolsky on 58 felony violations of state firearm laws.
Special agents in the Attorney General's Firearms Division confiscated 90 assault rifles, shotguns, pistols and 21 destructive devices at Yampolsky's Laguna Niguel shooting range and gun store, and the case will soon be presented to Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas for prosecutorial review.
"The illegal sale of firearms is the number one reason criminals are able to become armed and dangerous," Lockyer said. "Anyone who witnessed the North Hollywood shootout in 1997 knows that when placed in the wrong hands, these military-style assault weapons represent a tremendous threat to officer and public safety in California. That is why state law requires dealers to have a license in order to sell these high-powered firearms to law enforcement and others that may legally possess them."
"Dangerous weapons mixed with equally dangerous people create an explosive time bomb" said District Attorney Tony Rackauckas. " In Orange County, we have the option to prosecute firearms cases in either state or federal court depending on which court would give the defendant more prison time. We will evaluate the case in the next few days to determine how we can maximize justice in this instance."
The seizure was made Wednesday by Firearms Division agents during a routine dealer inspection conducted at On Target, a shooting range and gun store, at 27692 Camino Capistrano. Yampolsky does not have a license to sell assault weapons, or any other kind of firearm, as required by state law.
During the inspection, firearms agents discovered assault weapons being illegally offered for sale at the store and developed further evidence that Yampolsky, the manager of the gun store and range, was illegally offering assault weapons for sale on the Internet.
Yampolsky had two assault weapons publicly displayed for sale and illegally possessed dozens of other weapons on the premises. Both possessing unregistered assault weapons and selling them without an assault weapons dealer permit are felony crimes.
Agents seized 79 assault rifles, three assault pistols, seven assault shotguns, one rifle packaged with two grenade launchers and 19 "tracer rounds," illegal ammunition that contains phosphorous and illuminates the path of the bullet. In addition, a grenade with a fuse and pin also were discovered. The Orange County Sheriff's Department Bomb Team responded to the scene, and determined the device was inert.
Yampolsky, 38, was arrested on 33 counts of possessing unregistered assault weapons, 21 counts of possessing destructive devices and four counts of offering assault weapons for sale.
After being elected in 1998 to his first term as Attorney General, Lockyer created the Firearms Division within the Department of Justice to ensure common-sense firearms laws are enacted and enforced. He has sponsored and supported bills to:
Increase the annual fee for firearms dealers from $85 to $115 to fund more inspections of firearms dealers.
Require that all firearms sold, transferred or manufactured in California are equipped with a Department of Justice-approved safety device.
Establish the California Armed and Prohibited Persons (CAPP) program to identify individuals who obtained firearms legally but now are prohibited from lawful possession because of a felony conviction, domestic violence restraining order, or mental illness designation.
Raise the age of persons considered children for purposes of criminal storage of a firearm from under 16 to under 18, and expand the law so that a person convicted of criminal storage of a firearm is subject to an additional misdemeanor if the child took the firearm to school or a school-sponsored activity.
Require handgun buyers to provide a thumb print and proof of residency and pass written safety tests and a hands-on safety demonstration with a state-certified gun safety instructor as part of the background check.
Since July 2002, California Department of Justice firearms agents have seized 380 assault weapons, which are typically defined as having military features, such as pistol grips, flash-suppressors, collapsible stocks and the ability to accept large-capacity magazines.
While California's ban on assault weapons went into effect in 1989, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein succeeded in having a similar law enacted at the federal level in 1994. A recent study by the U.S. Department of Justice credits that law with steadily reducing the number of assault weapons traced to crimes. The data showed assault weapons were almost three times as likely to be recovered at the scene of a crime in 1995 than in 2002. The federal law is set to expire September 13, 2004.
"The assault weapons ban is clearly working at both the state and federal levels," Lockyer said. "It is critical that we maintain these important laws to protect our citizens from the death and devastation that comes with having dangerous military-style weapons on the street."