California Should Not Chastise Federal Government When the State Fails to Disarm Violent Felons & Mentally Ill

Monday, August 12, 2019

Following Governor Gavin Newsom's press conference this week in which he demanded national background checks, Senate Republican Leader Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) called on him to direct Attorney General Xavier Becerra and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to do their job and fully implement the Armed & Prohibited Persons System (APPS) to disarm violent criminals and those with serious mental illness.

Since 2013, under the leadership of then-Attorney General Kamala Harris and now Attorney General Xavier Becerra, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has been provided more than $63 million to fully implement APPS and clear the list. Even with funding assistance, the list has not shrunk, but has grown. The backlog currently stands at 23,000 people. Senate Republican Leader Grove released the following statement:

"Rather than blaming Washington, D.C, the governor needs to exhibit some leadership and demand the attorney general do his job and fully implement California's Armed & Prohibited Persons System. We must disarm violent criminals and those with serious mental illness who are not allowed to possess firearms.

"The public has called for real action, and this is an action the governor and attorney general can take right now. Let's show the nation how Republicans and Democrats in California can work together to protect people from those that pose the greatest risk of using a firearm.

"It's time for the governor and attorney general to put public safety above politics and fully enforce a program designed to remove guns from dangerous individuals," said Senate Republican Leader Shannon Grove.

BACKGROUND ON APPS:

In 2013, Attorney General Harris and her staff in the Department of Justice (DOJ) identified a growing backlog of some 20,000 APPS subjects. At a hearing on the issue, Attorney General Harris' staff testified that if given $24 million the backlog could be cleared within a year. The money was given but the list failed to shrink.

Senate Republicans called for an investigation of then-Attorney General Harris' slow progress on reducing the backlog. Of note was the fact that as of December 31, 2015, only 54 of the 75 agent positions for the program were filled.

In April 2018, Senate Republicans sent two letters. Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins received the first in which Senate Republicans requested a joint oversight hearing, and Attorney General Becerra received the second. Senate Republicans highlighted the lack of progress in eliminating the backlog from the attorney general and the DOJ. Both letters were essentially ignored, with the only discussion of the APPS program coming in the context of a regularly-scheduled budget subcommittee hearing.

On April 17, 2018, Attorney General Becerra sent a response letter to Senate Republicans which offered no explanations or solutions, only excuses. Attorney General Becerra held a subsequent meeting with then-Senate Republican Leader Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel) and Senator Jim Nielsen (R-Tehama). At this meeting, Attorney General Becerra committed to providing a plan to address the APPS backlog. Attorney General Becerra has not provided any formal plan to fulfill his commitment.