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DOJ agents spotted Joseph Hernandez buying an AR-15 style ghost gun kit even though he was prohibited from owning and possessing firearms due to multiple felony convictions, including second-degree murder and attempted murder
OAKLAND — California Attorney General Rob Bonta today announced the sentencing of a San Bernardino man found guilty of possessing illegal guns and ammunition. At the time of his arrest, Joseph Hernandez was on parole after serving a sentence of 32-years to life for second-degree murder and attempted murder. These convictions resulted in a lifetime prohibition from owning and possessing firearms and ammunition. He pleaded guilty in the San Bernardino Superior Court and was today sentenced to four years in state prison.
“I want to thank my team that works relentlessly on the ground and in the courts to keep deadly, untraceable weapons out of the hands of dangerous individuals,” said Attorney General Bonta. “We can’t afford to wait for another tragedy to happen before we take action. My office will continue to take any and all action necessary to protect California’s communities from more senseless gun violence.”
Hernandez had previously served a 32-year sentence after being convicted of second-degree murder and attempted murder. He was arrested in January this year after being observed by California Department of Justice Bureau of Firearms Special Agents purchasing an AR-15 style ghost gun kit at a San Bernardino gun show. After obtaining a search warrant, agents found an unserialized handgun, an unserialized short-barreled rifle, ammunition, and the AR-15 style ghost gun kit at his home.
Protecting California communities and addressing gun violence remains one of Attorney General Bonta’s top priorities. As part of these efforts, DOJ works with local law enforcement partners throughout the state to continue preventing gun violence strategically and aggressively by seizing guns from prohibited persons in the Armed and Prohibited Persons System (APPS), through multiagency sweeps, and by conducting operations targeting individuals attempting to illegally purchase guns.
In February 2022, Attorney General Bonta announced a five-day sweep with law enforcement partners targeting individuals in 51 cities in Los Angeles County listed as prohibited from possessing firearms in DOJ’s APPS database, which resulted in 13 arrests, as well as the seizure of 114 firearms, including assault weapons, ghost guns, lower receivers, handguns, rifles and shotguns, as well as 49,148 rounds of ammunition, and 87 high-capacity magazines. And in January 2022, DOJ Special Agents from throughout the state consolidated their investigative efforts in the Bay Area and worked with local and federal law enforcement to engage in a three-day sweep, resulting in the seizure of 30 firearms and eight arrests.
In 2006, the State of California became the first and only state in the nation to establish a system for tracking firearm owners who fall into a prohibited status. The APPS database works to identify individuals who lawfully procured firearms and later became prohibited from owning or possessing them. In general, prohibited persons in APPS include individuals who were convicted of a felony or a violent misdemeanor, were placed under a domestic violence or other restraining order, or suffer from serious mental illness.
The rise of ghost guns also impacts DOJ's work. For example, DOJ reported a nearly 44% increase in ghost guns seized as part of DOJ’s efforts to remove guns from prohibited persons in the APPS database.
Gun violence remains a growing threat to public safety. Some other ways Attorney General Bonta is addressing this issue is by:
DOJ’s Bureau of Firearms (BOF) serves the people of California through education, regulation, and enforcement actions regarding the manufacture, sale, ownership, safety training, and transfer of firearms and ammunition. BOF staff are leaders in providing firearms expertise and information to law enforcement, legislators, and the general public in a comprehensive program to promote legitimate and responsible firearms possession and use by California residents.