TEMPLE CITY, Calif. – A California man and his adult daughter have been charged with having an illegal cache of weapons, including more than a dozen assault rifles, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced Wednesday.
The case against Steven David Ponder, 57, and Riley Elizabeth Ponder, 27, was filed Tuesday following a Valentine’s Day raid on Steven Ponder’s home.
Ponder is banned from owning a gun because of his previous 2001 felony convictions for possession of a machine gun and counterfeiting money, Becerra said at a news conference in downtown L.A.
State Department of Justice Bureau of Firearms investigators who raided the Ponder home were looking for four illegal firearms that Ponder had registered, the attorney general said.
They found 28 firearms and 66,000 rounds of ammunition. The cache included:
- 13 AR-15-style rifles
- 11 “ghost guns” with no serial number, meaning they can’t be traced
- Two fully automatic machine guns
- Several rounds of tracer ammunition
"If someone has this kind of firepower and they are going through great pains to make sure that it isn't traceable, it is for ill-gotten gains," said L.A. County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, who announced the charges against the Ponders.
Ponder's home was raided after he appeared in a unique state database – the Armed Prohibited Persons System, or APPS – that cross-references criminal and restraining order records with gun registration records.
Becerra emphasized that the type of action conducted against the Ponders is done only in California because of that database, the creation of which was authorized under state law in 2001.
The bill that called for the creation of the database was authored by Jim Brulte, who was then a state senator from Rancho Cucamonga and is now the chairman of the California Republican Party. The database first went into use in 2007, and $24 million was appropriated in 2013 to address a backlog in the system.
“We’re the only state that does this. It’s a shame – because we see tragedies occur way too often, and mass killings,” Becerra said.
A news release from Becerra's office describes California as the "first and only state in the nation to establish an automated system for tracking firearm owners who might fall into a prohibited status."
Some 2,000 people in L.A. County remain on the APPS list, down from 5,000 three years ago, the Los Angeles Times reported, citing Samuel Richardson, the Bureau of Firearms supervisor who oversees state agents who seize illegal guns.
Richardson described his agents' work as "one of the most dangerous jobs in law enforcement."
In the Ponder case, investigators found during the search that the daughter was allegedly in illegal possession of a weapon and ammunition. She was arrested immediately but posted bail and was released the next day, Feb. 15, when Steven Ponder was arrested. He was released on bail Feb. 16, the DA's office said.
Booking photos of the pair have not been released.
Steven Ponder has been charged with: possession of a firearm by a felon, unlawful possession of ammunition, possession of a destructive device, unlawful assault weapon/.50 BMG rifle activity, possession of an assault weapon, possession of a machine gun and possession of a short-barreled rifle or shotgun.
Riley Ponder has been charged with: possession of an assault weapon, possession of destructive device and prohibited transfer of firearms.
They are both due for arraignment in Alhambra court — the father on March 19 and the daughter on March 8. Steven Ponder faces up to eight years in state prison if convicted as charged; his daughter could face five years.
The announcement of the arrest of the Ponders comes about two weeks after L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer revealed the raid of the home of a North Hollywood man, Mark Morman, in a search of two illegal weapons. Investigators found 25 illegal weapons, 2,000 rounds of ammunition and 44 magazines at Morman's home.
In September, Morman had a domestic violence criminal protective order issued against him that required him to sell or surrender his firearms. The Morman case also involved the APPS list and the raid was carried out by agents with the state Department of Justice Bureau of Firearms.
The state says the number of people in the APPS database are now at a historic low.