Despite the public concern over mass shootings in the United States, gun laws are slow to change, and gun sales have actually been on the rise. The recent shootings in Chattanooga, Tennessee and Charleston, South Carolina have again raised concerns about the availability of guns, but only one state has a program targeted at keeping guns from convicted criminals and the mentally ill by comparing gun sales to court data. However, problems with the program mean thousands of guns are still in the hands of prohibited persons.
According to a California state audit, delays in the California Department of Justice's implementation of recommendations for armed persons with mental illness continues to public safety at risk. Additionally, backlogs of thousands of cases leave firearms in the possession of “armed prohibited persons.” The auditors do not appear confident that the California Department of Justice will be able to tackle the backlog anytime soon.
The Armed & Prohibited Persons System (APPS) was created in 2001, in response to high-profile murder cases which involved people who were prohibited from even owning a gun. APPS cross-references a number of databases to track people who purchased firearms with those prohibited from possessing firearms. Prohibited persons include felons, individuals with a domestic violence history, and those with a history of severe mental illness.
Still, some prohibited persons are purchasing weapons on the black market, at out-of-state guns shows, or through private sales. Some people may have purchased a gun before the became a “prohibited person,” are are still in possession of the firearm. The APPS program is charged with sending out teams of special agents to contact prohibited persons and take away any unlawful weapons in their possession.
However, the state audit shows that the APPS program is falling behind. According to a prior 2013 audit, many state courts were not even aware of the state law with required reporting to the state's justice department, and thousands of reportable cases were never reported. As the high level of gun sales continue in California, the backlog may continue. The audit does not expect the backlog will be likely cleared before 2022.
Some people may not even be aware that their conviction means they are prohibited from owning a firearm. A felony conviction can affect future employment opportunities, professional licensing as well as gun ownership. After Prop 47 allowed for reductions in sentencing from a felony to a misdemeanor, many people have benefited by having their criminal records change from a felony conviction to a misdemeanor. However, a Prop 47 reduction does not affect the lifetime firearm ban.
At the Gorelick Law Offices, attorney Lynn Gorelick has dedicated her professional legal career to defending people facing drug, domestic violence, and other criminal charges in the East Bay. With more than 30 years of experience, Lynn Gorelick understands how a criminal conviction can affect your future, and how to fight to keep a conviction off your record. If you are facing a felony or misdemeanor criminal charge, contact the local East Bay DUI defense attorney who understands that you do not have to plead guilty just because you were arrested.