LOS ANGELES – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today announced that special agents from the California Department of Justice's (Cal DOJ) Division of Law Enforcement removed 28 firearms from an individual who is legally barred from owning weapons and who is listed in the Armed Prohibited Persons System (APPS) database.
The subject of the seizure, Steven David Ponder, is named in the APPS database due to two prior felony convictions for counterfeiting money and possessing a machine gun. Mr. Ponder was banned from owning firearms immediately after his conviction.
On February 14, 2018, Cal DOJ special agents conducted an operation at Mr. Ponder's residence in Los Angeles to search for four firearms registered in California that had not been relinquished. At the conclusion of the search, agents had seized 28 firearms and 66,000 rounds of ammunition. Twelve of the firearms were assault style weapons; 13 of the firearms were AR-15 style rifles, similar to the weapon used in the recent Florida mass shooting; and 11 were ghost guns, in which two were also short barrel, AR-15 style, fully automatic machine guns. Ghost guns are firearms that are untraceable by law enforcement due to their lack of serial numbers; they are built by an individual, not a manufacturer.
“We must do all we possibly can to remove weapons from individuals who should not be in possession of them,” said Attorney General Becerra. “At the California Department of Justice, public safety is our number one priority. We should all be proud of the work our Division of Law Enforcement special agents do every day without fanfare. They place themselves in dangerous, difficult situations to keep guns out of the wrong hands and to keep us safe.”
“One way we as prosecutors can help prevent gun violence is to strictly enforce state laws that prohibit people convicted of certain crimes from owning or possessing firearms,” said Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey. “I am committed to prosecuting individuals who violate court orders by failing to give up their guns as they pose a serious threat to our community.”
Mr. Ponder was booked into the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department Inmate Reception Center on numerous charges including manufacturing of machine guns, assault weapons, short barreled rifles, possession of a firearm by a prohibited person and possession of ammunition by a prohibited person. Mr. Ponder's daughter, Riley Elizabeth Ponder, was also arrested and charged with the illegal possession of an assault weapon. The case will be referred to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office for prosecution.
This operation, as well as ongoing and day-to-day investigations, have reduced the number of individuals in the APPS database – those who own illegal firearms – to a historic low. APPS works to identify individuals who previously procured firearms, but later became barred from legally owning them because they were convicted of a felony or a violent misdemeanor, placed under a domestic violence restraining order, or suffer from serious mental illness.
The State of California is the first and only state in the nation to establish an automated system for tracking firearm owners who might fall into a prohibited status. To date, Cal DOJ has removed 18,000 firearms from persons prohibited under California law from possessing them.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra / Wednesday, February 21, 2018