DOJ collected 1,437 firearms through the APPS program, including 521 firearms that were not part of the database and 54 ghost guns
DOJ contacted more individuals than ever before — approximately 24,000
SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today announced the release of the 2022 Armed and Prohibited Persons System (APPS) annual program report. In 2006, 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. Through the APPS program in 2022, DOJ recovered 1,437 firearms — including 712 handguns, 360 rifles, 194 shotguns, 80 assault weapons, 54 ghost guns, 43 receivers or frames, 3 short-barreled shotguns, and 1 machine gun. Agents also seized 308 large-capacity magazines, 2,123 standard capacity magazines, and 281,299 rounds of ammunition through APPS enforcement actions. As of January 1, 2023, there were 3,347,221 known registered firearm owners in California of which 23,869 are prohibited from owning or possessing firearms, making up less than 1%.
“As California’s chief law enforcement officer, protecting public safety and our communities from the threat of gun violence is my top priority,” said Attorney General Bonta. “I’m proud of the work our Special Agents do on behalf of the people of California. These brave agents are rarely in the spotlight, but they are working every day to prevent gun violence from ever happening by removing dangerous weapons from communities. When guns are in dangerous hands, it puts the public at risk. We will continue working with the Governor’s Office, Legislature, and our local partners to address gun violence.”
The Bureau of Firearms (BOF) within the California Department of Justice's (DOJ) Division of Law Enforcement leads the DOJ’s APPS efforts. The 2022 APPS report provides an analysis of the APPS database and an overview of the Gun Violence Reduction Program grant. It also describes how BOF staff and Special Agents increased enforcement efforts after COVID-19 restrictions were lifted, decreased staff vacancies, and collaborated with local law enforcement.
Key statistics from the 2022 report include:
In response to the overall increase in ghost gun seizures across the state, BOF will be expanding its investigative efforts focused on ghost guns. DOJ is actively working with law enforcement partners to establish collaborative investigative efforts aimed at addressing ghost gun activity. Ghost guns are firearms constructed by private citizens that do not have a serial number, which means they are not registered. By definition, ghost guns do not appear in the APPS database and cannot be tracked by law enforcement. BOF agents seized a total of 54 ghost guns in 2022, a 38% increase compared to the 39 ghost guns seized during 2021 APPS investigations.
When looking at data from the Unique Serial Number Application (USNA) process, which shows how many California residents have applied to legally make personally manufactured firearms, there has been a slight decline in applications since 2018. However, the number of illegal ghost guns seized by law enforcement agencies continues to rise. This contrast demonstrates illegal ghost guns remain difficult to track and represent a persistent threat to public safety. DOJ is actively combating illegal manufacturing and possession of ghost guns by bringing legal action against the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosive (ATF) and ghost gun manufacturers.
To maximize its investigative efforts, DOJ uses information from recently denied ammunition eligibility checks of APPS individuals who had attempted to purchase ammunition. In 2022, the DOJ received reports of 194 armed and prohibited individuals who attempted to purchase ammunition and were denied through the ammunition eligibility check process. BOF agents used these reports to investigate 194 individuals and seize 56 firearms, four large-capacity magazines, 55 standard magazines, and 6,621 rounds of ammunition.
2022 APPS Operations
DOJ collaborates with local law enforcement agencies (LEA) throughout the state in individual APPS operations, as well as sweeps, or operations that occur over multiple days within a specific area. A list of operations can be found at the back of the report. Some notable examples include:
Los Angeles County: In February, agents completed a five-day sweep in Los Angeles County that targeted APPS suspects in 51 cities in Los Angeles County and 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.
Bay Area: In January, agents from throughout the state consolidated their investigative efforts in a three-day sweep in Bay Area with local and federal law enforcement. The teams thoroughly analyzed and exhausted their leads in 338 cases in the counties of Contra Costa, Santa Clara, San Francisco, San Mateo, Sonoma, and Solano. The sweep resulted in the seizure of 30 firearms and eight arrests.
Orange County: In October, DOJ and the Costa Mesa Police Department (CMPD) arrested a suspect in Costa Mesa after a more than eight-hour standoff involving special agents and CMPD officers. The suspect, Luis Mendez Jr., was prohibited from owning firearms due to a misdemeanor conviction for domestic violence, and had an active misdemeanor arrest warrant. The special agents had a warrant to seize his weapons and attempted to serve that warrant when Mendez discharged a firearm. After more than eight hours of negotiations, Mendez surrendered and was placed under arrest with no injuries sustained by law enforcement or Mendez. Officers recovered a rifle, a shotgun, and multiple handguns at the scene.
Riverside County: During the month of August, DOJ collaborated with Menifee Police Department to serve a search warrant that resulted in the seizure of 54 guns — including two AR-15 style assault rifles, two UZI assault weapons, and 35 handguns — as well as 157 magazines and 2,200 rounds of ammunition from two individuals in Riverside County, one of whom was prohibited from possessing firearms.
Sacramento County: In October, Special Agents with the assistance of the Elk Grove Police Department Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) Team, served a search warrant at an APPS subject’s residence. As a result of the search warrant, agents seized one AR-15 style rifle machine gun, one AR-15 style pistol machine gun, one Polymer 80 handgun (ghost gun) with a full-auto switch attached, one stolen handgun, one complete Polymer 80 handgun (ghost gun), three suppressors, 15 ghost gun receivers/frames, 15 large capacity magazines, and approximately 1,200 rounds of ammunition. Special Agents also located ten 3D-printed handgun receivers and frames, two 3D printers, and filament for the printers.
Gun Violence Reduction Program
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.
In the first grant cycle, DOJ awarded over $4.9 million to 10 county sheriff’s departments to support activities related to seizing weapons and ammunition from individuals prohibited from possessing them. The sheriffs of Contra Costa, Lake, Los Angeles, Orange, Sacramento, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, and Ventura counties were awarded grants. The continued expansion of these collaborative efforts is an important tool with the common goal of protecting public safety.
About the 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. 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.