California's "NO GUN" List
Armed Prohibited Persons System
In 2013, the California Department of Justice (DOJ) staff identified a growing backlog of some 20,000 individuals thought to be illegally in possession of more than 40,000 firearms. Many of these individuals are violent felons or have serious mental illness. Recognizing the public safety need to address this backlog, the Legislature provided $24 million in one-time funds to the DOJ’s existing Armed Prohibited Persons System (APPS). Despite the $24 million infusion and an additional $4.7 million provided annually to attack the backlog, in March the DOJ reported that 10,226 APPS subjects (PDF) remain on the list.
California’s Armed Prohibited Persons System (APPS) was created in 2001 by former Senate Republican Leader Jim Brulte as a key tool for identifying and disarming many thousands of potentially dangerous individuals who are prohibited from possessing firearms.
The APPS program allows the state to cross-reference information from multiple state databases to identify individuals who purchased firearms legally but were later prohibited from owning them due to criminal activity or mental illness.
In 2013 DOJ staff identified a growing backlog of some 20,000 APPS subjects. At a hearing on the issue DOJ staff testified that if given $24 million the backlog could be cleared within a year. Based on that testimony, a bipartisan bill (SB 140, Chapter 2, Statutes of 2013) was passed that allocated the funding and required DOJ to make annual reports on its progress in clearing the backlog.
Since 2013, concerned over the lack of progress on APPS enforcement by DOJ, Senate Republicans have made multiple requests to the Senate Rules Committee approve a joint oversight hearing to review APPS and the DOJ’s reports.
Republican requests have received little to no attention. The only oversight provided to this critical program has been a brief, cursory review during a previously scheduled Senate Budget Subcommittee hearing.
In March, Attorney General Xavier Becerra released the fourth report required by SB 140 outlining his efforts to eliminate the APPS backlog. It was not good.
By the end of this fiscal year, DOJ will have spent $62.5 million on APPS enforcement since 2013, yet there is still a backlog of 10,226 known prohibited persons potentially in possession of guns.
Under A.G. Becerra’s leadership APPS enforcement has regressed. During his first year DOJ reduced the backlog by only 408 cases, the lowest total reduction since the Legislature provided the additional funding in 2013.
DOJ does not even have an estimate of when it will be able to clear the remaining cases or reduce them to a manageable level.
In comparison, the previous attorney general, despite failing to live up to her commitment to completely eliminate the backlog, did at least manage to reduce it by roughly 7,000 cases in the two prior years.
The lack of progress on enforcing APPS is unacceptable. It brings into question the capacity of DOJ to resolve the backlog regardless of any amount of additional resources provided.
Analysis in the aftermath of recent high-profile shootings has identified a common thread: The shooters were already known as dangerous – criminals or mentally ill – and authorities failed to identify and disarm them prior to their tragic rampages. This is exactly what APPS does.
We need to ensure California is doing everything possible with our already existing systems to disarm the people already identified as mentally ill or having a violent criminal record and who have been barred from owning a gun. That’s APPS, and the backlog is made up of those people.
Eliminating the APPS backlog and staying on top of disarming the list of people we know are barred from having guns should be a no-brainer.
WHAT SENATE REPUBLICANS ARE CALLING FOR
All 13 members of the Senate Republican Caucus signed a letter addressed to Attorney General Xavier Becerra highlighting the need for an in-depth review of APPS.
Additionally, a separate letter from the Senate Republicans was delivered to Senate pro Tem Toni Atkins requesting a joint hearing by the Senate Public Safety and Senate Budget Subcommittee #5. Senator Holly Mitchell (Senate Budget Committee Chair) and Senator Nancy Skinner (Senate Public Safety Committee Chair) were copied on this letter.
Senate Republicans are again calling for the Democrat majority in the Legislature to step up and do its duty by providing adequate oversight and review (1) the APPS program, (2) the recent report released by the DOJ outlining its failure to eliminate the APPS backlog, and (3) what appears to be mismanagement of the program.
Specifically, we have asked the oversight hearing to investigate:
The reason for the troubling reduction in resolving the backlog during the current attorney general’s tenure;
The inability of DOJ to hire and retain personnel allocated to the program;
Any steps DOJ has taken to increase local law enforcement involvement to offset the department’s inability to resolve cases;
The number of cases that represent a “normal” annual caseload (i.e., the number of cases that reflects a level at which the new entries into APPS each year can be resolved during that timeframe and do not become backlog);
A clear timeframe for completely eliminating the existing backlog along with notification of any additional resources that are necessary to do so; and
A transparent accounting of how the funding given DOJ for APPS enforcement over the past five years was expended.
The potential consequences of leaving firearms in the hands of people that are prohibited from having them are too great. It is incumbent upon us to protect the safety of the public while at the same time making prudent use of monies entrusted to us by the public.