Attorney General Lockyer Unveils New Program Seizing Firearms from Convicted Spousal Abusers, Felons and Individuals Deemed a Danger to Themselves or Others
(LOS ANGELES) – Attorney General Bill Lockyer today kicked off October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month by unveiling a new Department of Justice (DOJ) program that identifies and apprehends dangerous individuals who illegally possess firearms.
"This first-in-the-nation program targets lawbreakers who pose an immediate threat to the health and safety of Californians because they are armed and dangerous," Lockyer said. "We are making it a priority to protect domestic violence victims and the public by taking firearms out of the hands of violent criminals, spousal abusers and others who have been deemed a threat to public safety."
In the past three months, agents with the Attorney General's Firearms Division have used the state's criminal history records to identify individuals who illegally possess one or more firearms. Specifically, agents are using court records and DOJ databases to identify individuals who illegally possess a firearm due to a felony conviction, domestic violence restraining order or mental health report declaring them a danger to themselves or others.
After identifying the most dangerous of these individuals, DOJ agents obtain search and arrest warrants, notify local law enforcement that they will be serving these warrants and invite the local agencies as well as agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to participate.
As of Sunday, the Department of Justice has identified more than 260 individuals, arrested 20 and seized more than 120 weapons. Individuals arrested have had an average of four firearms in their possession.
More than 40 percent of the individuals arrested/identified for being in the illegal possession of weapons were prohibited from possessing firearms because of a domestic violence conviction or restraining order.
The "Armed and Prohibited" program was created by SB 950, sponsored by the Attorney General and the California State Sheriffs Association and authored by Sen. Jim Brulte, R-Rancho Cucamonga. Signed by Gov. Gray Davis last year, the bill went into effect July 1, 2002.
Lockyer has designated two teams of five agents each to identify and arrest the "worst of the worst" individuals who are "Armed and Prohibited." By the end of the year, he expects to have 15 agents who determine which individuals they should target based on the number of weapons they own and the seriousness of their prohibiting offense.
The Department of Justice plans to create a database to automatically cross-reference the names of individuals owning guns with court convictions, domestic violence restraining orders and records of individuals deemed a danger to themselves or others. Lockyer estimates that such a database would initially contain 170,000 names, and that 17,000 will be added each year.
The "Armed and Prohibited" database will be available to all California law enforcement agencies, whose officers then will be able to determine whether an individual is "armed and prohibited," by entering an individual's name.
"Not only will the database assist officers in their ability to disarm individuals who illegally possess firearms," Lockyer said, "it also will ensure that officers possess critical information for their own safety when they make traffic stops or arrive at the scene of a domestic violence disturbance."