California’s Armed & Prohibited Persons System [APPS] is designed to identify prohibited persons who own firearms so the guns can be confiscated. But — surprise! — the system is weighed down by inefficiencies, ignorance, errors, bureaucratic bloat and sheer volume.
On the ground, the envisioned collaboration between state and local criminal justice officials to confiscate firearms has been scattershot, at best. Some police departments say they had no idea they even had access to monthly state reports identifying individuals in their jurisdictions who remain unlawfully armed.
At the same time, many judges have done little to ensure their orders requiring gun relinquishments are executed, worsening the backlog and potentially putting the public’s safety at risk.
Meanwhile, understaffed state agents in the Bureau of Firearms are often outmatched by the onslaught of new cases every day from throughout California. Each one must be checked and cross-checked by hand across multiple criminal justice databases before being added to the prohibited-persons list. Simply put, the additions are coming faster than the subtractions.
The work-intensive process and outmoded technology has led some in law enforcement to question the database’s reliability. They say they’ve discovered errors during field operations and that investigations based on the list are a waste of resources.
Experts on the system — who note that thousands of guns have, in fact, been removed from individuals — say stakeholders throughout government must summon the resolve to finally fix the system’s deepening problems.
“We’ve made a decision as a society that there are people who, for a constellation of reasons, should not be allowed to have firearms. Are we going to enforce that social decision or not?” asked Garen Wintemute, director of the Violence Prevention Research Program at UC Davis.
— Robert Lewis in Outgunned: Why California’s groundbreaking firearms law is failing