Bill To Boost Funds for Disarming Mentally Ill Individuals Advances
On Thursday, the California Assembly voted 57-10 to approve a bill (SB 140) that would increase funding for efforts to disarm individuals who are prohibited from possessing guns because of mental illness or other factors, the AP/UT-San Diego reports (Olson, AP/UT-San Diego, 4/18).
The vote comes one day after the U.S. Senate rejected a package of proposals aimed at tightening gun control measures.
The California bill, by Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), was passed by the state Senate last month in a 31-0 vote (Rosenhall, "Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 4/18).
State law enforcement officials have the authority to seize weapons from individuals not permitted by law to own them.
However, at a joint legislative hearing in January, Stephen Lindley -- chief of the state Department of Justice's Bureau of Firearms -- said that 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.
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 the state each year investigates and seizes the guns of about 2,000 individuals listed in the database. However, Lindley said that about 3,000 names are added to the system annually.
He said, "Despite our best efforts, the bureau does not have the funding or resources to keep up with this annual influx."
The bill -- part of a package of gun control proposals introduced after a shooting at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school in December 2012 -- would allocate $24 million to help disarm individuals listed in the database. The funds would be generated by firearm sales and transfer fees.
California Attorney General Kamala Harris (D) said the funds would allow the state DOJ to hire 36 additional agents, doubling the size of the Armed Prohibited Persons System staff (California Healthline, 3/8).
Leno in a statement said, "This legislation makes a significant reinvestment in our state's unique tracking system to help eliminate this troubling backlog of illegal weapons and protect public safety in our communities" ("Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 4/18).
Harris in a statement said that the bill would allow her department "to double efforts to enforce the law and reduce the number of guns illegally possessed by violent and dangerous individuals."
However, several Republican lawmakers who oppose the measure argued against using surplus fees from firearm purchases or transfers to fund the enforcement efforts.
Assembly member Brian Jones (R-Santee) said, "This fee is not for this purpose."
The National Rifle Association and other gun rights organizations oppose the legislation.
The bill now heads back to the Senate for a final vote. If approved, it then will be sent to Gov. Jerry Brown (D) (AP/UT-San Diego, 4/18).
Headlines and links to broadcast coverage of the Assembly's vote are provided below.
- "Bill To Help DOJ Confiscate Illegally Owned Guns Passes Assembly" (Quinton, "KXJZ News," Capital Public Radio, 4/18).
- "CA Assembly Approves More Money To Confiscate Illegal Guns" (Small, "KPCC News," KPCC, 4/18).