LOS ANGELES – On the very day a suspect armed with an AR-15-style rifle strolled into a Florida high school and killed 17 people, California Department of Justice (DOJ) special agents removed 28 firearms and 66,000 rounds of ammunition from the home of a Los Angeles man who is legally barred from owning weapons and who is listed in the Armed Prohibited Persons System (APPS) database.
On February 14, 2018, the DOJ special agents went to the Temple City home of Steven David Ponder, 57, to search for four firearms registered in California that had not been relinquished. During a search of Ponder’s home, agents found and 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.
“California DOJ special agents have the very dangerous job of enforcing a law that protects all of us by banning guns from individuals who have been convicted of felonies, domestic violence or have a history of mental illness,” said California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) President Alan Barcelona.
Ponder is legally barred from being in the possession of firearms due to two prior felony convictions for counterfeiting money and possessing a machine gun. Ponder was banned from owning firearms immediately after his conviction.
“We must do all we possibly can to remove weapons from individuals who should not be in possession of them,” said Attorney Xavier 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."
Ponder was booked 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. Ponder’s daughter, Riley Elizabeth Ponder, 27, was also arrested and charged with the illegal possession of an assault weapon.
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, California DOJ special agents have removed 18,000 firearms from persons prohibited under California law from possessing them.