4063675103?profile=originalCalifornia Department of Justice police agents walk towards a house near Ontario, California on March 5, 2013.

Photo Credit:Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg

California Department of Justice police agents walk towards a house near Ontario, California on Tuesday, March 5, 2013. The agents, working for the only state-level program to confiscate illegal firearms from owners, targeted people who’d once legally purchased firearms and lost the right after being convicted of violent crimes, committed to mental institutions or hit with restraining orders.

Wearing bulletproof vests and carrying 40-caliber Glock pistols, nine California Justice Department agents assembled outside a ranch-style house in a suburb east of Los Angeles. They were looking for a gun owner who’d recently spent two days in a mental hospital.

Special Agent Supervisor John Marsh who coordinates the operations around California, said: “We’re not contacting anybody who can legally own a gun. The only people we’re contacting are people who are prohibited from owning guns.”

Weapons and ammunition seized from the home of Lynette and David Philllips by agents with the California Department of Justice police in Upland, California.

Lynette Phillips, 48, and her husband, David Phillips, 51, sit in their home in Upland, California on March 5, 2013. Lynette, a nurse, had to surrender three guns after spending two days in a mental hospital in December.

Special Agent Supervisor John Marsh with the California Department of Justice drives out to seize illegal firearms near Ontario, California on March 5, 2013.

They knocked on the door and asked to come in. About 45 minutes later, they came away peacefully with three firearms.

California is the only state that tracks and disarms people with legally registered guns who have lost the right to own them, according to Attorney General Kamala Harris. Almost 20,000 gun owners in the state are prohibited from possessing firearms, including convicted felons, those under a domestic violence restraining order or deemed mentally unstable.

“What do we do about the guns that are already in the hands of persons who, by law, are considered too dangerous to possess them?” Harris said in a letter to Vice President Joe Biden after a Connecticut school shooting in December left 26 dead. She recommended that Biden, heading a White House review of gun policy, consider California as a national model.

As many as 200,000 people nationwide may no longer be qualified to own firearms, according to Garen Wintemute, director of the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California, Davis. Other states may lack confiscation programs because they don’t track purchases as closely as California, which requires most weapons sales go through a licensed dealer and be reported.

“Very, very few states have an archive of firearm owners like we have,” said Wintemute, who helped set up the program.

Funding Increase

Harris, a 48-year-old Democrat, has asked California lawmakers to more than double the number of agents from the current 33. They seized about 2,000 weapons last year. Agents also took 117,000 rounds of ammunition and 11,000 high-capacity magazines, according to state data.

“We’re not contacting anybody who can legally own a gun,” said John Marsh, a supervising agent who coordinates the sometimes-contentious seizures. “I got called the Antichrist the other day. Every conspiracy theory you’ve heard of, take that times 10.”

The no-gun list is compiled by cross-referencing files on almost 1 million handgun and assault-weapon owners with databases of new criminal records and involuntary mental-health commitments. About 15 to 20 names are added each day, according to the attorney general’s office.

Probable Cause

Merely being in a database of registered gun owners and having a “disqualifying event,” such as a felony conviction or restraining order, isn’t sufficient evidence for a search warrant, Marsh said March 5 during raids in San Bernardino County. So the agents often must talk their way into a residence to look for weapons, he said.

At a house in Fontana, agents were looking for a gun owner with a criminal history of a sex offense, pimping, according to the attorney general’s office. Marsh said that while the woman appeared to be home, they got no answer at the door. Without a warrant, the agents couldn’t enter and had to leave empty- handed.

They had better luck in nearby Upland, where they seized three guns from the home of Lynette Phillips, 48, who’d been hospitalized for mental illness, and her husband, David. One gun was registered to her, two to him.

“The prohibited person can’t have access to a firearm,” regardless of who the registered owner is, said Michelle Gregory, a spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office.

Involuntarily Held

In an interview as agents inventoried the guns, Lynette Phillips said that while she’d been held involuntarily in a mental hospital in December, the nurse who admitted her had exaggerated the magnitude of her condition.

Todd Smith, chief executive officer of Aurora Charter Oak Hospital in Covina, where documents provided by Phillips show she was treated, didn’t respond to telephone and e-mail requests for comment on the circumstances of the treatment.

Phillips said her husband used the guns for recreation. She didn’t blame the attorney general’s agents for taking the guns based on the information they had, she said.

“I do feel I have every right to purchase a gun,” Phillips said. “I’m not a threat. We’re law-abiding citizens.”

No one was arrested. Most seized weapons are destroyed, Gregory said.

“It’s not unusual to not arrest a mental-health person because every county in the state handles those particular cases differently,” Gregory said by e-mail. “Unless there’s an extenuating need to arrest them on the spot, we refer the case” to the local district attorney’s office, she said.

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  • I think at this point we have to question if the Police simply removed it to a safe place until the situation is clearer as to the spouses mental state. My neighbor in AZ was asked to take his weapons to a safe location..In his case the local gun clubs safe, until his wife was given the all clear. He complied and everything turned out OK. Perhaps that would have been a better way forward?

    We have to balance our ownership with the safety of the public. I have a great secure safe and now so does my neighbor. But a loose firearm with a mentally disturbed person has to be a bad thing right?

    I think we all can agree logic means that although the Police had the best of intentions they acted a little strong handedly. PV Police were courteous and explained the risks and benefits of putting them somewhere safe for a period of time, so his wife could be fully assessed. I think that's fair as he still has access to his weapons. But they are only available to him. What do you think a fair compromise?? 

  • @Sandra-You can't violate people's rights based in what ifs. What judge signed off on this case after hearing expert testimony that this woman was insane? The situation as it stands now is too arbitrary as a nurse can have someone involuntarily committed and that person lost her rights without a hearing before a judge. The other problem I see is that her husband also lost his rights. I think that ONLY in cases where a family member has involuntarily committed another immediate family member, should anything like this be allowed, and even then the patient should be allowed a hearing where at least two of three expert witnesses agree, along with the closest family member, that a person should lose their 2nd amendment rights. If the right is lost, then the family has the right to take ownership and sell them. The state should not be allowed to confiscate property that is not used in drug related criminal activity.
  • WND did a story on that,it is everywhere and it is true about the fathers,the sanyhook father was a financial officer for G.E.,involved with clintons too. You are quick to always consider the other side first,arent you. I am sorry sandra but you are very obvious,you always seem to lean left.

  • Sounds like they are going to use the medical system to confiscate your gun. If you go to the doctor for certain complaints you just may wind up with a knock at your door and ordered to hand over any firearms you may have!

  • I WILL NOT COMPLY!!!! This doesn't surprise me in California, and is becoming a nightmare in other states as well. They are going to keep pushing until we fight back and that day seems to be very close.

  • This hppened to me when I lived in SLO county CA . I was separated from my wife and in a custody battle for my children . I ran an apertmnt complex 3/4 of the people in it used or were involved one way or another in the use and sales of drugs . I stuck my neck out and was a LEO informant . I carried a gun without a permit becuse I had people following me around and I had children living with me . My wife reported me carrying the the local police and they came to pick me up and " non voluntarily " commit me for overnight evaluation in a mental facility . The facility found nothing wrong with me and released me the next day . However the Sheriffs dept kept my gun and took away my right to bear in CA and maybe nationally I don't know . When I knewI was being followed and harrassed I had reported it to LEO and was told " theres nothing we can do about it until a crime is committed " . I asd them " What about the law against stalking " and was told " we don't and can't enforce that law , it means nothing " So I was disarmed , had criminals either harrassing or trying to set up an ambush ( I had a 140 mile paper route out in wine country to be delivered every night ) I had a freind in the complex that was exarmy ranger and told me that a mexican with a double barelled 12 guage cut off and rolled up in a newspaper had stopped to ask him where I was . . I was in a dangerous situation with custody of three  young children and had to make a living to support them . WHAT WOULD YOU DO ? I don't keep guns at my home , I have access to guns if I need them within the hour . For home defense The best thing I have is WASP SPRAY which is actually better than a gun if you  hit in the nose eye area of the face it can kill if you use enough of it . Then I have a large and very sharp machete , then a basebALL BAT . You PICK HOW YOU CHOOSE TO DIE . Personally I'd choose a gun . Oh I knew a guy once that was DEADLY WITH A WHAMMO SLING SHOT . They are inexpensive silent and deadly with enough practice using steel .38 cal balls .

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • Sandra,the mother knew her son had mental problems,she took him shooting,she showed him,she ended up dead,I THINK SHE SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER,JUST A LITTLE. On the subject of this,i am glad you brought this up,but do you know that that boys father and the father of the boy in theater shootings were both involved in libor investigation before the senate,mighty strange coincidence ?.

  • One round at a time!!

  • Well welcome to Communism , Komissars Pelosi , Feinstein , Waters and Boxer are getting their way as the kiss up to the Fearful Leader . The claims of the Special Agent in charge do not make sense . Not targeting legal owners , but those not eligible to own a fire arm . These people do not go down to the local gun shop and fill out any forms os show permits , they buy their guns on the street . Weapons stolen from legal owners or obtained in some other illegal manner . California would be better off banning Pelosi , Feinstein and company . Perhaps clean up the air quality as obviously brown air is bad for mental capacity .

  • Help me with the argument please someone that guns kill people?? Now these cops come and take guns out of their home and to an unfamiliar place and they don't shoot a single person? Now if the vicious guns are at fault why are they not firing on those cops?? Seems that would really piss them off. 

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