Lawmakers Back More Money to Confiscate Illegal Weapons from Californians
The state Department of Justice is likely to win legislative approval by the end of April to use $24 million in registration fees paid by gun owners to speed up taking away weapons from Californians prohibited from owning them.
Emergency legislation is awaiting action on the Assembly floor that would earmark the money, already collected by the department, to enforce the findings of its Armed Prohibited Persons System, which has identified 38,563 handguns and 1,647 so-called assault weapons in the hands of 19,770 Californians, such as felons or the mentally ill, who the law says can’t possess them.
The database of Californians who previously purchased guns but now are ineligible from ownership grows by about 2,000 persons each year, the department says.
Jerry Brown is expected to sign the measure – SB 140 — which is aimed at correcting a problem the Democratic governor helped create by cutting the Department of Justice’s Division of law Enforcement budget by $71 million in 2011.
Approved by the Legislature, the cuts by Brown, who was attorney general from 2006 to 2010, caused seasoned agents to be transferred from the gun confiscation program to other responsibilities within the division, lowering not only total manpower for the confiscation program but also the experience level of those remaining.
The $24 million will allow agents to eliminate the backlog of unconfiscated weapons over three years, according to Stephen Lindley, who heads the department’s Bureau of Firearms.
“Despite our best efforts, the bureau does not have the funding or resources to keep up with this annual influx,” Lindley told lawmakers ealrier this eya rin arguing for the additional money.
According to the Department of Justice, the $24 million will allow them to hire for a three-year period, 30 special agents, six supervisors and support staff.
That will allow creation of six new gun confiscation teams at a cost of about $8 million per year.
The Armed Prohibited Persons System was established in 2007. It examines various databanks to determine if persons who have purchased guns since 1996 might have become ineligible over the past 17 years to own guns today.
There wasn’t enough money or personnel in 2012 to take away more than 2,000 of the nearly 40,000 weapons the department has identified as wrongly being in the hands of nearly 20,000 Californians.
In 2012, agents seized 2,033 firearms, 117,000 rounds of ammunition and 11,072 illegal high capacity magazines.
About 30 percent of the persons on the department’s list for weapon confiscation aren’t supposed to possess guns because of mental issues.
The $24 million comes froma surplus in the Dealers Record of Sale Special Account, which is replenished through a $19 fee on gun purchases collected at time of sale.
Opponents include the National Rifle Association and the California Rifle and Pistol Association.
They say the bill — by Democratic Senators Mark Leno of San Francisco and Darrell Steinberg of Sacramento – is an inappropriate use of the gun purchase fees.
“The fact that the amount of the … fees charged to firearms buyers has been excessive resulting in a surplus does not provide justification to use the money for (this purpose),” writes the National Shooting Sports Foundation in opposition.
“The Department should have reduced the fee or refunded the fee surplus long ago.”
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