Bust highlights backlog in California system to seize guns
LOS ANGELES - Authorities seized more than two dozen guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition from a California man, nearly five months after a judge barred him from having firearms, highlighting a backlog in a state system meant to seize guns from those who aren't allowed to have them.
A judge in September ordered Mark Morman to surrender his firearms and ammunition. In January, agents from the California Department of Justice went to his home in North Hollywood looking for two guns that he had registered.
They found 25 firearms, including rifles with high-capacity magazines and thousands of rounds of ammunition, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer said Tuesday.
Morman is among more than 10,000 people listed in the state's Armed Prohibited Person System, which identifies those who legally purchased guns but were later disqualified from having firearms.
A lack of funding, surge in gun sales and the addition of long guns to the database have slowed efforts by the state Department of Justice to enforce the ban, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said. Before a 2014 law was enacted, the system had only included handgun owners.
Since 2013, agents from the attorney general's office have seized more than 18,000 guns, Becerra said. However, he said there still may be thousands of people who illegally possess firearms.
"The thousands of weapons we've confiscated over the years essentially represent the low-hanging fruit," he said.
Agents are trying to move more quickly to overcome the backlog and are now processing cases in about a two-week period, said Tony LaDell, a special agent in charge with the California Department of Justice. But he said there are still some cases that fall through the cracks.
While many people voluntarily agree to allow agents to search their homes for weapons, some oppose it.
"I suspect among the several thousand who are still in possession of their weapons that would be the case," Becerra said. "It gets tougher and tougher because the mountain gets higher."
The time it takes to gather information about registered guns can also add to the backlog, Becerra said, and sometimes agents will find more guns than they knew about.
"While this is certainly not expected for us, I can't say this isn't an unusual case," said Samuel Richardson, who supervises the team of agents who arrested Morman.
Morman faces 29 criminal charges, including possession of a firearm by a prohibited person, and is due in court later this month. A phone number listed for him in public records was not in service.
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