SAN JOSE -- In an effort to get guns off the street, the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office spent Monday morning looking for registered gun owners who are legally banned from possessing firearms.
But as the sheriff's office sweep illustrated, the job is not as easy as knocking on a door and having someone give up a gun.
Relying on a list of names and addresses provided by the state Attorney General's office, deputies targeted five homes in the Alum Rock neighborhood where they believed a prohibited gun owner resided. In three instances, the gun owners no longer lived at the address, including one man who reportedly had not resided at the home for about three years.
In another case, the man on the state's list was deceased.
When the deputies finally got a hit, a family member said the young man they wanted to speak with was at work. The sheriff's office said it would make a return trip in the near future.
Still, the fruitless effort did not leave the sheriff's office discouraged.
"Maybe it was not the result we had intended, but it's still taking a proactive approach in trying to take these guns off the street," said Sgt. Jose Cardoza, a sheriff's office spokesman.
The effort by the sheriff's office comes on the heels of comments made by Supervisor Ken Yeager in January during his State of the County address, when he called for the need to curb gun violence by reducing the number of firearms in the South Bay.
Sheriff Laurie Smith has said her office has done this sort of work since 2007, but Cardoza said "now it's more targeted and more focused because of the recent shooting incidents nationwide and the local concern.
"We want to do more targeted enforcement operations, collect these guns and remove them from people who are prohibited," Cardoza said.
The sheriff's office used a list of "armed prohibited persons" compiled by the state Attorney General's office and provided to local law enforcement agencies on monthly basis. The state program cross-references five databases to find people who have legally purchased handguns and registered assault weapons since 1996 with people who are prohibited from owning or possessing firearms.
People become ineligible to possess a gun if they have felony convictions, restraining orders placed against them or have been determined by a court to be a danger to themselves or others.
The state Department of Justice provides a comprehensive list to every agency in Santa Clara County, but does not break it down based on jurisdiction.
In January, the list included 534 people who live in the county. The latest report indicates those individuals own 1,266 guns, 51 of which are assault weapons.
Statewide, there are an estimated 19,170 registered gun owners prohibited from possessing firearms, based on the most recent DOJ list. There are more than 40,000 weapons associated to those gun owners, including 1,641 assault weapons.
Of those 19,170 names on the list, more than 15,000 are prohibited because of a felony conviction.
The sheriff's office combed through the list and identified 45 people who fall under their jurisdiction in the unincorporated areas of the county.
On Monday, two sheriff's deputies went to five homes in the Alum Rock neighborhood. The deputies described their job as a "knock-and-talk," meaning they can only ask the gun owner in question to surrender their firearm.
The sheriff's office is planning on doing more targeted checks more frequently, according to Cardoza.
During his State of the County address, Yeager said he also wants the county to create a gun buyback program that would allow county residents to voluntarily surrender their firearms for cash -- no questions asked.
Contact Mark Gomez at 408-920-5869. Follow him on Twitter @MarkMgomez.