Profile No. 12

Oakland Firearms Licensee Compliance Program -- Oakland, CA

Program Type or Federal Program Source:
Program to monitor Federal firearms licensees; Bureau of Justice Assistance.

Program Goal:
To reduce violent crime by decreasing the availability of illegal firearms.

Specific Groups Targeted by the Strategy:
Federal firearm licensees.

Geographical Area Targeted by the Strategy:
Oakland, CA.

Evaluated by:
Internal data collection; Police Executive Research Forum, Washington, DC.

Contact Information:
Sergeant Gary Tollifson
Oakland Police Department
455 Seventh Street
Oakland, CA 94607
Phone: 510­238­3728

Years of Operation:

The use of firearms in violent crime in Oakland, CA, increased steadily during the period from the late 1980's through the early 1990's. City officials were concerned about the increase in the proportion of aggravated assaults involving firearms (from 40 percent in 1992 to 44 percent in 1993) and in homicides (from 60 percent to 80 percent during the same period). The city also had a large number of Federal firearms licensees, many of whom were selling out of their cars and homes.

To respond to these concerns, the Oakland Police Department (OPD) joined with ATF to create the Firearms Licensee Compliance Program. This program aims to enhance the ability of OPD to conduct more complete and comprehensive background investigations on applicants for new or renewed Federal firearms licenses and to ensure that gun dealers comply with Federal, State, and local laws. Oakland also initiated a Firearms Trafficking Program to reduce the number of illegally purchased firearms and illicit dealers. Both initiatives were implemented in the department's Weapons Unit with funding from the Bureau of Justice Assistance.

The goals of the initiatives are to reduce violent crime by reducing the availability of firearms, reducing the number of illegally purchased firearms, eliminating firearms businesses that operate in residential neighborhoods, and reducing the number of firearm dealers. These goals are achieved by conducting comprehensive background investigations of applicants for FFL's and by ensuring that all licensees have OPD permits. The Weapons Unit also maintains a data base to identify multiple gun sales and determines if certain individuals are operating as independent dealers or completing questionable sales (straw purchases). The Weapons Unit also traces all guns confiscated by a police officer. Patrol officers bring between 20 and 25 gun cases a month to the unit's attention. The investigators in the unit conduct all work on each firearm violation case from -- initial interview of the arrestee to preparation of the case for the district attorney. Investigators also work with the U.S. Attorney's Office to prepare cases for Federal prosecution under Operation Triggerlock, an ATF initiative.

Oakland's firearm licensee compliance initiatives, together with the new municipal ordinances governing firearm sales (see profile 16), reduced the number of FFL's from 57 to 6 during the 2-year period from 1994 to 1996. The unit completed more than 3,000 firearm traces and investigated 28 straw purchasers -- leading to prosecution of suspects in 5 of these straw purchase cases. Because of its recognized success, this initiative is continuing with ATF staff support and OPD officers.

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