Special Task Force in California Enforces Gun Control

As the only state known to maintain a relational database to restrict ownership of firearms to certain individuals, California takes gun control very seriously. Law enforcement investigators use the database to build cases against people whose background may constitute a threat to public safety with regard to gun ownership; once a warrant to seize weapons has been obtained, a task force fro the California Department of Justice is assigned to the case.

According to a recent report broadcast by CBS News, task force investigators and officers know about the risks involved when they execute a weapons confiscation warrant. The work stars at the database level; the state tracks individuals who are known to possess weapons legally or otherwise. By cross-referencing with other databases, investigators can see if these individuals have gotten in trouble with the law, have been diagnosed with a potentially dangerous mental health condition or if they are the subject of a restraining order.

The next step of the process is to determine the likelihood of firearms possession. Let’s say a woman in Bakersfield is convicted of theft in 2018; if the database shows she purchased a Davis 22mm handgun two years ago, investigators will check if she is still in possession of the weapon. Likewise, if a man in Sacramento is pulled over and found to be in unlawful possession of a shotgun, his name will go on the database and may come up again if he commits a crime in the future or is determined to be a risk.

The Armed and Prohibited Persons System of California has been acclaimed by supporters of gun control and criticized by advocates of the Second Amendment. This database contains more than 10,000 records, and it keeps agents busy as they confiscate thousand of guns each year.

Although the work of these agents is inherently dangerous, most of the warrants they conduct do not end up with weapons seizures. Lawful gun owners are known to surrender their weapons upon being convicted, and individuals who are caught with illegal guns will often take precautions of not being caught again for the purpose of avoiding a harsh prison sentence.

The effectiveness of the California task force remains to be determined. In the past, the federal government has not conducted research into gun control programs and their effects on violence reduction, and it is unlikely that this will happen in the Trump administration. Researchers from the University of California Davis are beginning to look at the impact of the task force and may release findings in the coming years.