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Official Says Calif. Lacks Funding To Disarm Mentally Ill, Felons

Staff shortages and funding cuts have led to delays in disarming more than 19,700 Californians who have mental illnesses or have been convicted of felonies, according to a state law enforcement official, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Details of Official's Comments

At a joint legislative hearing on Tuesday, Stephen Lindley -- chief of the state Department of Justice's Bureau of Firearms -- said that although state officials have the authority to seize weapons from individuals not permitted by law to own them, the Bureau of Firearms does not have enough staff to confiscate all the firearms.

The Times reports that individuals who improperly own guns likely acquired the firearms legally, before they were convicted of a felony or diagnosed with a mental illness.

Lindley said such individuals -- who are recorded in the state's Armed Prohibited Persons database -- now own a total of about 39,000 firearms.

He said that the state each year investigates and seizes the guns of about 2,000 individuals listed in the database. However, Lindley added that each year about 3,000 names are added to the system.

He said, "Despite our best efforts, the bureau does not have the funding or resources to keep up with this annual influx."

Lindley said it would cost about $25 million to hire enough staff to clear the backlog within three years (McGreevy, Los Angeles Times, 1/29).

Potential Legislation

At the hearing, lawmakers did not vote on or discuss any pieces of legislation by name. However, they pledged rigorous discussion of the issue.

Following the hearing, Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said that he plans to introduce a bill that would provide more funding to confiscate weapons owned by individuals with mental illnesses or felons.

Gun Rights Advocate Responds

Tom Pedersen of the California Rifle and Pistol Association said that state officials should focus on determining whether existing guns laws are being enforced properly. He noted that the state should ensure that officials are receiving accurate and timely information about individuals prohibited from owning guns (Minugh, Sacramento Bee, 1/30). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.
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