Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) gestures at… (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated…)
SACRAMENTO -- The California Senate approved a $24-million expenditure on Thursday to speed the confiscation of guns from people who have been disqualified from owning firearms because of criminal convictions or serious mental illness.
Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) said budget cuts to the Department of Justice have hampered a program that targets people who purchased firearms legally but were later disqualified because of a subsequent conviction or determination of mental illness.
As a result of the cuts, there is a backlog of 19,000 people who have improper possession of more than 40,000 guns, including 1,600 assault weapons, and the number is increasing faster than their firearms can be confiscated.
"The mountain continues to grow," Leno said. "This is a serious and immediate threat to our public safety."
The Senate voted 31-0 to approve an urgency bill that would take the $24 million over three years from a Department of Justice account funded by gun owners who pay a fee when they register their guns with the state.
Sen. Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber) abstained from the vote, saying the $24 million is a surplus indicating gun owners are being overtaxed and that the Department of Justice is not properly managing its funds. "I argue we cannot reward this incompetence," Nielsen said before the vote to send SB 140 to the Assembly for consideration.
California is the only state that has such a computerized tracking program. Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris said the money would allow her to temporarily double the program staffing for three years to whittle down the backlog.
"Taking guns away from dangerous, violent individuals who are prohibited by law from owning them is smart and efficient law enforcement," Harris said in a statement.
Ratings agency gives California thumbs up
Key Senate panel approves Medi-Cal expansion
Probe urged of agency that regulates hazardous waste