Praised as "model legislation" by gun control advocates, California's one-of-a-kind Armed Prohibited Persons System law empowers police to retroactively confiscate guns belonging to persons no longer legally qualified to own them.
Created by a law enacted in 2001, California's Armed Prohibited Persons System (APPS), systematically scans five California and US law enforcement databases to identify people who legally purchased handguns and registered assault weapons beginning in 1996, but have since become legally prohibited from owning firearms.
Persons prohibited from owning firearms under California's APPS law include felons, individuals with a history of violence (domestic violence/restraining order) or severe mental illness, and fugitives.
According to California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris, the latest APPS law statewide "sweep" in 2012 resulted in the confiscation of 2,033 firearms, 117,000 rounds of ammunition, and 11,072 illegal high capacity ammunition magazines. California law prohibits the sale or possession of ammunition magazines holding more than 10 rounds purchased since January 1, 2000.
California's Department of Justice claims that the list of persons becoming disqualified gun owners under the APPS law grows by from 10 to 15 per day. "There are currently more than 20,000 armed prohibited persons in California. Collectively, these individuals are believed to be in possession of over 39,000 handguns and 1,670 assault weapons," stated Harris.
Like many laws in California these days, the APPS gun confiscation law has suffered from a lack of money needed to enforce it. "Neither the Department of Justice nor local law enforcement has sufficient resources to confiscate the enormous backlog of weapons, nor can they keep up with the daily influx of newly prohibited persons," said the state's Justice Department.
But on May 1, Governor Jerry Brown singed California Senate Bill 140, authorizing the expenditure of $24 million to hire additional agents needed for future APPS gun confiscation operations.
The bill provides that future APPS confiscation efforts focus on the California cities of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, Fresno and Riverside.
"We are fortunate in California to have the first and only system in the nation that tracks and identifies individuals who at one time made legal purchases of firearms but are now barred from possessing them," said bill's author Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), in a press release. "However, due to a lack of resources, only a few of these illegally possessed weapons have been confiscated, and the mountain of firearms continues to grow each day."
The bill was just one of some 30 new gun control bills introduced in the California legislature after the Sandy Hook school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Still pending are bills that would require background checks for persons buying ammunition, and adding more requirements to the state's already extensive list of qualifications for gun ownership.