SACRAMENTO, CA- “County Gun Team?” Is this a shooting club? Competitive turkey shoots? Not quite. The county of Santa Clara, California is creating “county gun teams.” What exactly do they do?
We have been reporting lately on the onslaught of “red flag” laws that have popped up in states all over the country. In California, they have had a version of that law for years. California allows police officers to seize guns from people with criminal convictions or mental health problems.
The issue is, California has been struggling to enforce the law, which has resulted in thousands of people who are technically barred from owning firearms still maintaining possession of them.
In our example using the county of Santa Clara, every year, the county issues somewhere in the vicinity of 4,600 orders for gun owners to turn in their weapons, mostly on charges related to domestic violence. This is according to a report in The Mercury News.
Actually seizing those weapons? Not so much. So what is the solution?
The county’s board of supervisors, along with the district attorney’s office are joining in a partnership to create a “County Gun Team” The team’s only task will be to seize these weapons.
— JE & KE (@JEE_KSE) February 26, 2020
“Our policies in Santa Clara County, and counties across the state, can’t work if there’s no one enforcing them,” said Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors President Cindy Chavez on Monday.
Think about this for a second. The California government passed a law under the guise of “common sense gun reform,” then enforce that law by using an armed unit. Call us crazy, but something doesn’t sound right about that.
Clearly, there are people who simply should not be allowed to own firearms, just as there are people who really should not have access to automobiles.
This is either because they can’t stay sober long enough to safely operate them, or maybe age has made them unable to safely drive without risking lives.
The problem in California was noticed as far back as 2013, after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut, which resulted in 20 dead first-graders and six adults.
The California legislature set aside $24 million to revive the firearms-seizure program. At the time, there was a backlog of over 20,000 people and a representative for then-Attorney General Kamala Harris said eliminating the backlog was her “top priority.” She estimated it would take three years to eliminate the problem.
As of the moment, the list has only been reduced by half. As of last July, the backlog stood at around 9,000 people.
Despite new offenses which prohibit gun ownership have come on the books and with a substantial increase in firearms sales, Justice Department officials said they have reduced the backlog each year since 2013.
In proposing the new “gun confiscation task force,” Deputy District Attorney Marisa McKeown said:
“Those categories of individuals that have been unfortunately a dangerous gap over the last several years require a dedication of focus so that we can run all of these orders and cross-reference their histories and dangerousness.”
— The Western Journal (@WestJournalism) February 27, 2020
The idea was spurred by a case in which a man murdered four of his family members and then killed himself, despite reports of a violent threat only days earlier. Obviously, this is the case of someone who probably should have had his guns seized.
What most people have a problem with over laws such as these, or in this case developing an armed task force to seize guns is that it has the potential of creating a monster that cannot be contained. Unfortunately we have seen that in the cases of government, if you give an inch they take a mile…and are happy to do so.
However, what happens when someone files a complaint against someone purely in order to exact revenge for a perceived wrong? With many of these laws, due process is at least delayed, since in many cases any type of hearing is delayed for over a week.
What about the recent case in Colorado, when a woman tried to have a police officer stripped of his right to carry a weapon via that state’s red flag law after he shot her son?
Fortunately a judge saw through this nonsense and denied the motion. But think about what would happen if you had an activist judge, such as Roger Stone’s overseeing a hearing like this?
"A judge on Thursday denied a petition to seize the guns of a police officer involved in the 2017 fatal shooting of a 19-year-old which was sought by the teen’s mother under Colorado’s new red flag law."https://t.co/oadErC3Gvl
— Rob (@2Aupdates) January 18, 2020
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra called the seizure law a “phenomenally successful program, in terms of not only recouping weapons, but also never having an incident where anyone’s been hurt” during a gun seizure.
Despite that, by having an armed task force storming a residence to seize guns, just like a caged animal when backed into a corner, so could someone who feared their guns were going to be seized by an armed unit lash out, leading to deadly consequences.
Of course, whenever the Democrats need to make up for shortcomings in a program, their solution is to just throw money at it.
Governor Gavin Newsom, clearly in over his head as chief executive of California, has proposed to throw more millions at the problem to hire more agents and support staff…i.e. more government jobs. Newsom has promised to “raise the bar” on gun control.
Of course, other Democrats are circling the wagon around Newsom. Former state Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), who pushed the original funding measure said:
“This is just the unglamorous continual need to invest in the task and to see it through. It just does not go away, and the job is never done.”
So the cure is keep throwing money at it.
California’s Armed and Prohibited Persons System database is pretty dynamic, and you would be hard-pressed to find another system like it in the U.S.
It checks gun sales against record of criminal convictions, mental health holds and domestic violence restraining orders to flag prohibited owners who have not given up their weapons. Field teams of Justice Department special agents go to subjects’ homes to seize their guns and ammunition.
The APP system was designed to back up the universal background checks California adopted in 1991. It alerts law enforcement authorities to people who became ineligible to possess firearms after legally acquiring them. It is interesting because a Republican actually wrote the 2001 bill that crated the program.
Former state Sen. Jim Brulte said that the bill remains among his proudest legislative accomplishments.
“We got all the players who care about this issue to the table,” Brulte said, including the NRA and what is now known as the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. “We had a lot of people who said it couldn’t be done.”
The database was completed in 2006, and enforcement action began in 2007. However due to budget cuts spurred by the recession, the Bureau of Firearms had difficulty keeping up as names were added faster than they could seize weapons.
In 2013 the transfer of funds helped fund four dozen temporary positions to supplement 42 agents already in place, however retirements and transfers basically froze the number to 57. This forced the department to return 25% of the $24 million increase, or $6 million.
Hiring within the department has persisted, and the department has forced agents to sign agreements agreeing to stay on the job for at least two years, and they must also work overtime to get the backlog of cases in check.
Another issue is the relative inexperience of agents assigned to the agency. Most of the agents are straight out of college with minimal law enforcement experience, said Alfredo Cardwood, union president of the agents union within the Justice Department.
In addition, new agents have to undergo one year of training, and afterward many of them skip out and go two work for local district attorneys Cardwood said.
Still, even with agents being required to work 30 hours of overtime per month to try to keep pace, it is a losing battle.
“We just don’t have enough manpower to put it out,” Cardwood said.
There are some issues with the database. Craig DeLuz of the Firearms Policy Coalition, a gun rights organization, says that the state should be required to send a warning letter to everyone in the database.
He claims that many people are listed improperly, and many others would likely hand over their guns voluntarily to a dealer or a non-prohibited person if asked.
According to the Justice Department, agents do not give advance notice of their operations, fearing that people might try to hide their guns.
Newsom of course is looking for more money, in this case $5.3 million to assist with the gun confiscation program. This is also in response to Proposition 63, approved by California voters in 2016 which mandates that anyone convicted of a crime leading to a gun prohibition give up the weapons through a court process before the case can be closed.
Newsom called the measure a “mitigation strategy to reduce the increase of that backlog going forward.”
For Becerra, he said the money would allow his department to do a couple of things. First, it would be able to hire more permanent agents, and to expand gun seizure teams across the state. He would not say how quickly the backlog could be cleared with the additional money.
“If it’s a real commitment, we’ll tackle it, “Becerra said.
Despite the program’s struggled, gun-grabbing organizations feel that it’s a worthwhile program.
“We have to make sure those guns are recovered,” said Amanda Wilcox, legislative chairwoman of the California chapters of the Brady Campaign. “We don’t know which one of those is going to be the future mass shooter. It’s hard to prove what you’ve prevented.”
Kind of like proving a negative, no?