Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, second from left, discusses… (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated…)
The state Assembly on Thursday approved $24 million to speed up the confiscation of 39,000 guns that are in the hands of Californians not allowed to own them because of criminal convictions or serious mental illness.
Lawmakers said the urgent action was required to hire 36 additional special agents to get to 20,000 people who bought guns legally but were later disqualified because of a subsequent conviction or court order.
Budget cuts to the Department of Justice meant there was not enough staff to keep up with the growing backlog. The new funding will allow the agency to clear the backlog in three years.
Assemblyman Robert Blumenfield (D-Woodland Hills) noted the action came a day after Congress failed to pass a package of gun-control measures.
“Congress’ failure is our opportunity,” Blumenfield said, adding the state measure is aimed at “keeping guns out of the hands of people clearly identified as folks who should not have guns in their possession.”
The measure passed on a bipartisan vote of 57-10, although some Republican lawmakers opposed it, arguing it was improper to pay for the confiscations using a surplus of fees paid by gun buyers to cover the cost of background checks.
“This fee is not for this purpose,” said Assemblyman Brian Jones (R-Santee). "It’s an illegal law. This bill will be tied up in court for years.”
Assemblyman Tim Donnelly (R-Twin Peaks) also voted against the measure, saying it is “a dangerous practice” to “send SWAT teams into our neighborhoods” to collect the firearms.
The bill by Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) had previously been approved by the state Senate but heads back there for concurrence in some noncontroversial amendments.
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