Gun sweep aimed at domestic abusers 

Remove guns from the hands of domestic abusers and convicted felons and fewer innocent people will die, according to local law enforcement officials.

That principle is at the heart of a new joint police task force announced Thursday by county officials that aims to track down and seize firearms from those with domestic violence restraining orders or parole and probation court orders against them.

"If you have a restraining order, you better turn over your firearms or you can expect the county of San Mateo to come after you," said Supervisor Mark Church, who sits on the county’s Domestic Violence Council.

Police have already identified 45 individuals in the county as targets for enforcement, and more are expected as the task force ramps up operations, officials said.

The state hopes the task force — being piloted over two years in San Mateo and Butte counties — will offer a template for other Bay Area agencies and counties trying to rein in domestic violence deaths and violent crimes by convicted felons, Director of the Firearms Division of the state Department of Justice Randy Rossi said at a press conference with local officials Thursday.

Under the program, two sheriff’s deputies, a state Department of Justice agent and state crime analyst will work to close a gaping hole in a 2004 law. The law prohibits felons and domestic abusers from owning guns but relies on their goodwill to turn them over to authorities to a large degree, said former Sheriff Don Horsley, who helped initiate the program last year.

The result: Too often, guns are left in the hands of dangerous individuals, Horsley said.

An estimated 2,000 temporary restraining orders were issued in San Mateo County last year. There were nine domestic violence related deaths in the county in 2005-06, according to the county. Six of those were firearms-related, three were homicides and three were suicides, county records show.

Statewide, over half the 181 domestic violence homicides in California in 2002 involved firearms, California Department of Justice records show.

Police plan to use search warrants, the permission of domestic partners to search homes and interrogations to track down and seize the guns, according to District Attorney Jim Fox.

The state will contribute $972,000 and the county $387,000 to fund the task force, officials said.

"Until there is no more domestic violence, we will not rest," Susan Manheimer, San Mateo police chief and vice president of the county Police Chiefs Association, said.

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