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With the lifting of pandemic-related restrictions in mid-June 2021, monthly productivity returned to pre-pandemic levels
SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today announced the release of the 2021 Armed and Prohibited Persons System (APPS) annual program report. 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 procured firearms and later became prohibited from legally owning them. It remains the only system of its kind in the nation. In general, prohibited persons in APPS include individuals who were convicted of a felony or violent misdemeanor, were placed under a domestic violence or other restraining order, or suffer from serious mental illness.
The Bureau of Firearms (BOF) within the California Department of Justice's (DOJ) Division of Law Enforcement leads the DOJ’s APPS efforts. The 2021 APPS report provides an analysis of the APPS database and also describes how BOF staff and Special Agents strategically continued enforcement efforts during the unique challenges presented by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“Even during the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, our agents remained committed to maintaining critical operations and keeping firearms out of the hands of potentially dangerous individuals,” said Attorney General Bonta. “While the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic required agents to limit in-person contact during the first half of the year, the APPS team redoubled their efforts as soon as COVID restrictions allowed, returning monthly productivity to pre-pandemic levels in the second half of the year. As California’s chief law enforcement officer, protecting public safety and keeping our communities safe from the threat of gun violence is always my top priority. I’m proud of the work our Special Agents do every day on behalf of the people of California. We look forward to working with the Governor’s Office, Legislature, and our local partners to ensure we have the tools and resources necessary to continue tackling firearms challenges head on.”
Key statistics from the 2021 report include:
The COVID-19 pandemic brought on a surge in firearm and ammunition sales, including numerous attempted purchases by APPS individuals who are prohibited from owning and/or possessing firearms and/or ammunition. The critical nature of APPS operations meant that BOF had to be mindful of reducing the risk of COVID-19 exposure to staff and the public and develop strategies that would allow them to continue the work of protecting the public during social distancing, self-isolation, and travel restrictions. A component of BOF's APPS investigative efforts was a focus on APPS individuals who demonstrated active possession of firearms by attempting to purchase ammunition. This process has allowed BOF to use information from recently denied ammunition eligibility checks of APPS individuals to maximize its investigations and continue to disarm prohibited individuals while limiting face-to-face interactions with the public during the Governor’s Stay Home Order.
Once the Stay Home Order lifted in mid-June 2021, BOF progressively increased APPS enforcement efforts. By the end of 2021, monthly productivity had returned to pre-pandemic levels. As COVID-19 restrictions and safety measures were lifted, BOF Special Agents took steps to increase productivity by conducting four regional large-scale sweeps in collaboration with local law enforcement agencies. These sweeps cumulatively investigated 1,263 cases, resulting in 55 arrests, and produced 297 firearm seizures, including 214 APPS firearms, 63 non-APPS firearms, 12 ghost guns, and 8 assault weapons.
Partnerships with local law enforcement continue to be a force multiplier that streamlines the efficiency of APPS enforcement efforts. In 2021, BOF continued to maximize opportunities to work collaboratively with local law enforcement agencies through joint task forces and collaborative joint sweep operations to enhance public safety and remove firearms and ammunition from prohibited persons. To expand upon collaborative efforts, on January 1, 2022, DOJ awarded the first cycle of grant funding to county sheriff’s departments to support seizures of firearms and ammunition from prohibited individuals through the new Gun Violence Reduction Program. The continued expansion of these collaborative efforts is an important tool in our common goal of protecting public safety.
The past few years have seen an increase in prohibited individuals with Gun Violence Restraining Orders (GVROs) being entered into the APPS database. DOJ views GVROs as a critical tool that saves lives, and prioritizes GVRO-related APPS subjects for investigation. In 2016, California became one of the first states to enact a red flag law. In 2020, Assembly Bill 61 expanded authorization to petition the court for a GVRO to employers, coworkers, and school employees. GVROs assist law enforcement in recovering firearms from individuals who have shown a probability to commit violence with a firearm or preventing those individuals from obtaining firearms in the first place. Restraining orders, including GVROs, proved a potentially effective means of removing people from the APPS database in 2021. Of the 3,221 individuals who were disassociated from all known firearms, 1,527 (47%) were prohibited, at least in part, because of restraining orders. DOJ looks forward to continuing efforts to enhance public safety through the GVRO process. This year, Attorney General Bonta called on Californians to use Red Flag Laws and met with officials in San Diego to highlight the success of the city’s GVRO program.
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. BOF is looking to hire additional Special Agents and more information on assessments for relevant job openings can be found on DOJ's website here: oag.ca.gov/careers/exams.
DOJ's efforts to remove firearms from individuals legally barred from possessing them have successfully continued in 2022. In January, APPS Agents worked with local and federal law enforcement to engage in a three-day sweep in the in the counties of Contra Costa, Santa Clara, San Francisco, San Mateo, Sonoma, and Solano. In February, agents conducted another successful sweep with local law enforcement partners in Los Angeles County.
A copy of the 2021 APPS Report is available here.