California governor signs gun-tracking improvement bill into law

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed AB 2300 this week without comment, which will allow the state's firearm and prohibited persons databases to better share information.  (Photo credit: Westside today)

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed AB 2300 this week without comment, which will allow the state’s firearm and prohibited persons databases to better share information. (Photo credit: Westside Today)

Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed a little-publicized bill into law this week that will help cross-reference state firearm purchase and possession records looking for illegally owned guns.

The bill is designed to expand and correct issues matching records from the Armed & Prohibited Persons System (APPS) and the Consolidated Firearms Information System (CFIS) databases so that state Department of Justice agents can identify guns held by prohibited persons and seize them. The measure passed two separate Assembly committees, the Assembly itself, and the state Senate in a string of unanimous votes this spring.

“When guns are in the hands of persons who’ve been prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm Californians are placed at greater risk of serious injury or death from a firearm,” read a statement released by the bill’s sponsor, Los Angeles Assembly member Sebastian Ridley-Thomas (D-Culver City). “The APPS and CFIS system work best when our DOJ agents are able to effectively track those persons who are in the state and federal databases of persons who are banned from owning or possessing a firearm I’m pleased Governor Brown signed this important measure into law.”

Ridley-Thomas’ legislation, AB 2300, will correct a discrepancy in the database used by state agents tasked with the collection of guns owned by prohibited persons.  The bill came about following an audit released last October that found the Department of Justice special agents did not have an accurate database to go by in their work.  As explained in the lawmaker’s author’s statement when he introduced the measure in February, state law required the APPS to go back to 1991, although the records were not available.

This information will be used by the 33-agent unit, founded in 2001, in their work to seize thousands of guns across the state. According to information from the CA DOJ, the APPS program in 2011 seized 1,209 firearms, 155,731 rounds of ammunition, and two grenades from 723 individuals over the course of 1,011 cases.

Approximately $24 million in funds were added to the unit last year, drawn in part from mandatory Dealer Record of Sales (DROS) fees paid during gun purchases. This will allow an additional 36 agents to help process the estimated 40,000 illegally owned guns in the state.

However, this dragnet has caught a few unintended legal gun owners in its net.

In August last year, an Upland, California, man had his guns confiscated by the state after his wife checked into the hospital following an adverse reaction to a change in medication. Citing incorrect hospital charts, the state came to get their guns nine months later, only to return them after the mistake was uncovered.

In a separate case in November, a Bakersfield man expressed disbelief when armed agents came to his door to seize 18 guns when he flagged in the APSS system. The reason for the raid came from a forty-year-old charge for marijuana possession that is no longer even listed in the state’s criminal code. After holding his guns for two weeks, agents returned them once the mistake was realized.

Gun rights groups have largely been silent on AB 2300, while the state attorney general is pleased with the legislation.

“California’s firearms statutes are designed to prevent firearms from falling into the wrong hands and to protect the rights of lawful gun owners,” Attorney General Kamala Harris said. “AB 2300 supports our work to keep our communities safe and illegal firearms of our streets.”