LAPD Seized 1,000 Guns From A Home In Holmby Hills. So What Happens To Those Guns?

A photo released by LAPD shows a cache of over 1,000 firearms seized from a mansion in the Holmby Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles on Thursday, May 9, 2019. (Courtesy of LAPD)

Over 1,000 guns were seized on Wednesday from a home in the affluent Holmby Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles.

Police arrested gun owner Girard Saenz on suspicion of violating California's gun law on the sale and transportation of assault weapons and .50-caliber Browning machine guns.

Saenz's home was raided after LAPD and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives received a tip about illegal firearms sales.

Saenz was released Thursday morning after posting $50,000 bail.

SO WHAT HAPPENS NOW TO THE GUNS?

Retired LAPD detective Timothy T. Williams Jr. said the size of the seizure — and the fact that many of the guns were collector's items — makes this a unique case. Deciding the fate of the guns will take time, especially since each gun will need to be individually analyzed.

"Each gun stands on its own," Williams said. "There's a lot of things that come into play. You have 1,000 guns, how much ammunition was there? You got to look at the totality of everything."

Williams said during investigations the confiscated guns remain as evidence.

And since guns are bought and sold frequently, confiscated guns sometimes have links to other crimes — making them key to investigations.

Williams said, for example, if crimes committed decades earlier went through the appeal process, "then you still have the weapons and the evidence there."

If officials determine no criminal activity occurred, California law allows gun owners to petition to reclaim them. An owner must apply to the California Department of Justice for a written determination that they are eligible to own a firearm. As part of that, gun owners have to submit a Law Enforcement Gun Release Application (LEGR).

If a seized firearm that's allowed to be returned is not picked up within 180 days, then law enforcement can destroy it.

Despite the large size of the gun cache in Holmby Hills, experts said that alone doesn't make it illegal.

"There's no law in the state of California that says gun owners can only own five weapons, or ten weapons. Nor is there any such federal law," said Adam Winkler, a UCLA constitutional law professor who specializes in gun policy.

Winkler said there's been a rise in the past 10 years of so-called super owners — "people who have dozens, even hundreds of firearms in some cases," Winkler said.

When laws are violated, weapons used to commit crimes are not returned, Williams said.

In those cases, a few things can happen:

If a gun owner unlawfully possessed the guns, or the guns were involved in a crime such as an illegal gun market, Williams said law enforcement can destroy them or sell them.

Guns can be sold to police officers through licensed dealerships that might have a facility on law enforcement property. The LAPD Academy has a facility where guns obtained in crimes are sold.

There's debate across the country about the ethics of selling seized weapons. Some critics argue putting guns back into circulation can lead to more violence.

In 2014, a gun owner in Washington State killed himself with a Smith & Wesson 9mm that local police said had been seized years before and sold back to the public.

Williams supports bans on selling guns involved in crimes.

"Guns take lives," Williams said. "We should be taking guns out of the system — not adding them back in."