State officials announced Tuesday the recovery of an array of illegally owned weapons — including three grenade launchers — under a one-of-a-kind California program that’s gained more attention in recent months amid a wave of mass shootings across the country.
Attorney General Xavier Becerra said they had made arrests and confiscated multiple weapons in seven cases throughout the state dating back to Feb. 28. Those arrested were identified primarily through the Armed and Prohibited Persons System (APPS) program, an automated database aimed at helping authorities disarm people who are convicted for a felony, identified as having certain mental illnesses, or are otherwise deemed to be dangerous.
“In California, we are consistently taking action to fight crime and protect our families by removing illegal guns from our neighborhoods,” Becerra said in a statement. “Every day, (state DOJ) agents put themselves in dangerous situations to keep guns out of the hands of gang members and other individuals who shouldn’t have them.”
The cases announced Tuesday include the March 7 arrest of Pittsburg resident Kendale Standifer, who authorities say had a semi-automatic handgun and ammunition. He was prohibited from carrying firearms for life due to felony convictions for robbery, illegal weapons possession and grand theft when he was alleged to be a member of a local street gang.
Agents also arrested Roberto Peña and Joel Mendoza on March 5 after they allegedly tried to buy three grenade launchers from a Texas-based gun dealer. The transaction attracted the attention of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the state DOJ. A subsequent search of their Fresno home also turned up two AR-15 rifles that were seized.
Other arrests announced by the AG’s office include the following allegations:
* Oroville residents Cory James Shelton and Kay Stout, arrested March 6 after Shelton, an alleged gang member convicted for brandishing a gun, was found with an “AK-47 style assault weapon” that his grandmother, Stout, bought and tried to give to him. A home search later turned up “three unsecured rifles” and ammunition.
* Oroville residents Esther Clark and William Gary Clark were arrested March 7 after Esther Clark, prohibited from firearm possession from a welfare fraud conviction, had her husband purchase a rifle for her. Authorities later seized five rifles, two shotguns, two handguns and 700 rounds of ammunition.
* Norwalk resident Timothy Pope, convicted for possessing a destructive device, was arrested Feb. 28 after agents seized a handgun, shotgun, three assault-style weapons and 6,500 rounds of ammunition. Two of the assault weapons were “ghost guns,” meaning they had missing serial numbers, and one was equipped with a bump stock, an attachment that allows a semiautomatic weapon to approximate automatic weapons fire.
* Riverside resident Brian Ojeda, whose probation conditions include a firearms prohibition, was arrested March 5 after agents searched his home and recovered an “unregistered assault weapon” with a bump stock, a rifle, a high-capacity magazine, and 2,000 rounds of ammunition.
* San Diego resident James Norman, who had a rape conviction and domestic-violence restraining order issued against him, was arrested March 5 after agents found two rifles, a handgun, a bump stock, and 731 rounds of ammunition.
The profile of bump stocks was significantly raised after they were used in the infamous Oct. 1 mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas that claimed 58 lives.
People monitored by APPS were at one point registered gun owners and became disqualified due to their crimes. To date, there are 10,226 people in the APPS database, a number that was twice that size five years ago before the state Legislature increased its funding.
State officials assert that since APPS launched in 2006, 18,000 firearms have been seized. And in the wake of mass shootings in Las Vegas, Texas, Tehama County in Northern Cailfornia, and most recently in Parklawn, Florida, gun-control advocates have wondered whether the APPS program should be replicated in other states.
But gun-rights groups like the Firearms Policy Coalition and Calguns Foundation have complained that there’s no quick way to remove someone’s name from the system once their court-ordered weapon restriction ends. They also point to the case of Devin Kelley, the man behind the Texas church shooting in November that killed 26 people. He would have been subject to firearms prohibitions if the U.S. Air Force had not failed to submit his domestic-violence conviction into a federal database after he was discharged from the military.
The Kelley case, along with the one involving Kevin Janson Neal — who was behind a Nov. 14 spree of shootings in Tehama County that killed five people — fueled critics who argued the ineffectiveness of sweeping gun-control measures. Neal surrendered his weapons after an earlier stabbing arrest but still ended up with homemade weapons.
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