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Calif. Agents Detail Risks Of Seizing Guns From Felons, Mentally Ill

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Agents with the California Department of Justice search for people who have lost the right to carry firearms, as part of the Armed and Prohibitive Persons Program. (CBS)

Agents with the California Department of Justice search for people who have lost the right to carry firearms, as part of the Armed and Prohibitive Persons Program. (CBS)

HAYWARD (KPIX 5) — Since the killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, agents for the California Department of Justice have ramped up seizures of guns from people who have lost the right to carry firearms, particularly those who are mentally disturbed.

KPIX 5 recently caught up with the armed special agents, who were wearing bulletproof vests on a mission in Hayward. As part of the Armed and Prohibitive Persons Program, agents are confiscating guns from people who don’t want to give up their weapons.

The special agents have a target list of 20,000 names. In a year, agents only get ten percent of those guns.

In 2012, state agents seized 2,000 guns and more than 100,000 rounds of ammunition from people who are not supposed to have guns. California is the only state that takes away legally purchased guns from those who lost their rights to possess a gun.

This statewide program isn’t new; agents have been seizing guns the past ten years. But the Armed and Prohibitive Persons Program is among the state’s top priorities since the Newtown shooting put the spotlight on mental illness.

“We are in route to contact a subject who is prohibited for mental illness,” said Special Agent John Marsh.

When special agents searched for the gun, neither the owner nor the gun could be found. The girlfriend of the subject said that he hasn’t had a gun for a long time. Agents will now try to follow up to see if the weapon is stolen, seized, or what the status is.

Michelle Gregory of the Department of Justice said, “We have 20,000 people in the system, 30 percent of are mental health for various reasons.”

Those on the list are mentally unstable or convicted felons, or people with restraining orders. There are only 33 agents statewide tackling the huge list of people refusing to give up their guns.

Prohibited persons don’t know when the authorities are coming, making things really tense for the agents.

“Agents are dealing with mental instability like in this case, they don’t know if he is medicated or off medication,” said Gregory.

At one of the stops, a .22 caliber semi automatic hand gun was confiscated from a person just released from a mental institution.

During the five hour ride along, two guns were seized, some pot, and one arrest.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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