Attorney General Xavier Becerra is set to unveil new numbers for 2018 Friday from a uniquely California program that seizes guns from people no longer allowed to own them because of criminal convictions or mental illness.
He’s expected to acknowledge that a backlog of illegally held weapons remains despite an infusion of millions of dollars to beef up enforcement efforts in recent years.
The only-in-California Armed and Prohibited Person System, known as APPS, cross-matches five databases to find people who legally purchased weapons but are now banned from ownership because they have been convicted of felonies or have a history of domestic violence or mental illness.
State and local authorities then can move to seize the weapons under the program, which began in 2006.
Republican lawmakers have long criticized Democrat Becerra and his predecessor, Kamala Harris, for not ending the backlog despite $24 million in additional money allocated by lawmakers in 2013 in the wake of the mass slaying of 20 children and six educators at Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary School.
The money was supposed to be enough to eliminate what was then a backlog of 20,000 gun owners within three years, but more than 10,000 people still illegally possessed weapons at the end of 2017.
State Department of Justice agents seized nearly 4,700 firearms in 2017 and made over 400 arrests.
“We are constantly looking for ways to retrieve these weapons as quickly as possible,” Becerra said this week.
Becerra has said dozens of additional owners are added to the list every day, particularly since rifles and shotguns were added in 2014 to an effort that previously targeted handgun owners.
New Gov. Gavin Newsom is proposing to increase the program’s funding yet again, adding $5.6 million because of the increased workload, for a total of nearly $17 million in the fiscal year that begins July 1.
Republicans criticize Becerra and his predecessor, Harris — a U.S. senator now running for president — for not spending even the money they had, mostly because of difficulties in hiring and retaining enough special agents.