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In 2006, the State of California became the first and only state in the nation to establish a system for tracking firearm owners who fall into a prohibited status. The Armed and Prohibited Persons System (APPS) database works to identify individuals who procured firearms and later became prohibited from legally owning them. It remains the only system of its kind in the nation. In general, prohibited persons in APPS include individuals who were convicted of a felony or violent misdemeanor, were placed under a domestic violence or other restraining order, or suffer from serious mental illness.
The APPS database contains information on individuals who have purchased or transferred firearms legally and all known firearms associated with each individual. Consistent with legislative mandates, the database is the result of records and information originating in the Dealer Record of Sale (DROS) database and the Automated Firearms System (AFS) database. Individuals are entered into the APPS database as soon as they legally purchase or acquire a firearm. They are moved to the Prohibited Armed Persons File within the database if they later become prohibited. Prohibitions may be due to a felony conviction, domestic violence conviction, a qualifying misdemeanor conviction, mental health-based event, various types of civil or criminal restraining orders, as well as other prohibitory categories based on state and federal law. Prohibited individuals are identified by daily manual queries of the databases that cross-reference the population of known firearm owners against individuals who may have had a Prohibited Triggering Event (PTE) within the past 24 hours. New individuals are added daily, creating a constantly changing and growing dataset.
Armed and prohibited individuals, while the primary focus of the enforcement efforts of the California Department of Justice (Department), are a subset representing less than one percent of the APPS database. As of January 1, 2022, there were 3,199,394 known firearm owners in the APPS database, of which 24,509 are prohibited from owning or possessing firearms in the Prohibited Armed Persons File.
Between 2013 to 2021, five California laws have established new offenses that prohibit firearm ownership and/or possession, placing a growing number of individuals into the Prohibited Armed Persons File. Other factors such as ammunition eligibility checks, mandatory assault weapon registration, and increased firearm sales have also contributed to the increase of identified prohibited individuals
Five databases feed into the APPS database for firearm association and prohibition determinations:
Before any action is taken to remove a firearm, Crime Analysts verify that a person is prohibited and confirm their most recent listed address. Once all necessary information is verified and confirmed, Department Special Agents will attempt to remove the firearm from the possession of the prohibited individual.
The Bureau of Firearms (Bureau) within the Department’s Division of Law Enforcement leads the Department’s APPS effort. Each Bureau office throughout the State has its own team of Special Agents for field operations. The Bureau also employs Crime Analysts in each of its six offices throughout the State. The Crime Analysts access the APPS database daily and develop investigative packages of armed and prohibited people for each team of Special Agents to contact. Their jobs require crosschecking several databases to confirm addresses, photos, arrest records, and status of armed and prohibited individuals, among other relevant information. Using their knowledge and expertise, the Crime Analysts translate vast amounts of data into actionable information that allows the Special Agents to do their investigations efficiently and effectively.
Using the investigative packages, Special Agents attempt to locate the firearm(s) associated with each armed and prohibited individual via a consent search, probation or parole search, or a search warrant. Often, the armed and prohibited individual will be in possession of numerous firearms, many of which were not associated with that individual in the APPS database. This could be due to the individual having: long guns purchased before long gun reporting requirements in 2014, firearms loaned to them by another person, firearms imported into California from another state, antique firearms, illegally purchased firearms, ghost guns, or stolen firearms.
Every year, the Department issues the Annual APPS Report to the Legislature and to the public. This report provides a summary of APPS-related work over the previous year, and the status of the database on the first day of the year the report is released. The 2021 APPS Report is available here.