California Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at a news conference in Sacramento last… (Renee. C. Byer / Associated…)
SACRAMENTO -- Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday signed legislation aimed at taking handguns and assault rifles away from 20,000 Californians who acquired them legally but have since been disqualified from ownership because of a criminal conviction or serious mental illness.
The measure, the first of several gun-related bills to reach the governor, allocates $24 million in surplus funds to hire dozens of additional special agents to tackle a backlog of 40,000 weapons in the hands of people not allowed to possess firearms.
“This bipartisan bill makes our communities safer by giving law enforcement the resources they need to get guns out of the hands of potentially dangerous individuals,” said Evan Westrup, a spokesman for the governor.
The state operates a database that cross-references a list of gun owners with those disqualified later from owning guns. But, budget cuts have prevented the state Department of Justice from keeping up with the growing number of people on the list.
State Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) introduced SB 140, which takes the money from fees paid when people buy guns and allocates it to a three-year campaign to take guns from those ineligible to have them.
“We know for the safety of our communities that these people should not possess guns, and our reinvestment in this tracking program gives us the opportunity to confiscate them,” Leno said in a statement.
The measure was opposed by Sam Paredes, executive director of Gun Owners of California, who said it should be paid for by the state general fund.
"Going after criminals is a good thing, but the way they are paying for it is grossly unfair," Paredes said. "They are putting the entire burden on the back of law-abiding gun purchasers."
The measure, supported by state Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris, is one of more than a dozen gun-control bills introduced in the California Legislature following the massacre of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.
“California is leading the nation in a common-sense effort to protect public safety by taking guns away from dangerous, violent individuals who are prohibited by law from owning them,” Harris said.
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