SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KERO) — Following the mass shooting in Buffalo, gun violence continues to be a concern not only across the nation but in California. This comes as agencies are working to try to prevent this kind of crime here in our community.
The state of California tracks the number of people who have guns but are later not allowed to own them because of felony convictions, gun violence restraining orders, or certain other circumstances, and that is done through the armed and prohibited person system. As of January 1st, 2022, the Armed and Prohibited Persons System annual report states that 24,509 people had firearms, but were on the prohibited list.
In Kern County, the district attorney’s office says nearly 800 people in 2021 were felons who were charged with the possession of a firearm.
The report also says that the Bureau of Firearms through the California Department of Justice recovered more than 1,400 firearms but, about 600 of those were not on the database. That means the officers did not know that people prohibited from owning guns had those in their possession.
Bakersfield Police Department Sergeant Robert Pair says that the Bureau of Firearms at the state level handles recovering firearms from those individuals that aren’t allowed to have them, but he adds that locally, the department has been consistently seeing that most gun-related crimes are committed with weapons that people were not supposed to have.
“Gun violence is a problem in our community. The felons in possession of firearms that we’ve had I think that also plays out in the number of violent crimes that we have had. In 2021, our gang enforcement unit alone seized approximately 400 firearms from individuals that were not allowed to possess them,” said Pair. “The vast majority, I would say 99% are firearms that are in the hands of felons, or otherwise prohibited persons. The vast majority of those firearms are not firearms that are lawfully owned by lawful firearm possessors. They are most frequently stolen, trafficked into the state and unregistered or manufactured.”
According to Sgt. Pair, the majority of gun-related killings in our community are perpetrated by those who are on that prohibited list.
“Firearms being used in crimes of violence but we had a record year of homicides. The vast majority of homicides are committed with a firearm. Those aren’t firearms in the hands of responsible gun owners, those are firearms that are in the hands of people that know they’re prohibited from owning those due to prior acts.”
As of January 1, 2022, little more than half of the individuals in the database were prohibited due to a felony conviction. About 20-percent were due to the federal Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, a restraining order, or due to mental health triggering events. Ten percent were prohibited due to a qualifying misdemeanor conviction, and 5-percent were prohibited due to the conditions of their probation. Because people can be prohibited under more than one category, that’s why the total is greater than 100-percent.
Taking a look at the trend of people who have been charged with possessing a firearm after committing a felony, it was 498 in 2018, increased to 502 in 2019, to 639 in 2020, and then to 795 in 2021.
“Individuals that lawfully own firearms, please keep them secure," added Sgt. Pair. "We find that the individuals that are not allowed to have them, they come from a theft related offense.”