New Calif. Law Allocates $24M To Disarm Some Mentally Ill Gun Owners
On Wednesday, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed into law a bill (SB 140) that increases funding for efforts to disarm individuals who are prohibited from possessing guns because of mental illnesses or other factors, the Huffington Post reports.
The bill -- introduced by Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) -- was part of a package of gun control proposals introduced after a shooting at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school in December 2012 (Schwartz, Huffington Post, 5/1).
California is the only state with a database that provides a resource to cross-reference gun owners with those who later are disqualified from owning firearms because of serious mental illnesses, criminal convictions or restraining orders (McGreevy, Los Angeles Times, 5/1). State law enforcement officials have the authority to seize weapons from individuals not permitted to own them.
The state has a list of more than 19,700 Californians who own firearms illegally and should be disarmed, but Stephen Lindley -- chief of the state Department of Justice's Bureau of Firearms -- told a joint legislative hearing in January that staff shortages and funding cuts have slowed that process.
Lindley said such individuals own a total of about 39,000 firearms.
The state each year investigates and seizes the guns of about 2,000 individuals listed in the database. About 3,000 names are added to the system annually, Lindley noted.
He said, "Despite our best efforts, the bureau does not have the funding or resources to keep up with this annual influx" (California Healthline, 4/23).
Details of Law
Under the new law, the state will allocate $24 million to hire 36 additional special agents and support staff. The funds will come from fees paid by individuals receiving background checks before purchasing guns.
Lynda Gledhilll -- a spokesperson for California Attorney General Kamala Harris (D) -- said the agents primarily will work in cities that requested additional help, including:
- Los Angeles;
- Sacramento; and
- San Francisco.
The first officers are expected to start disarming individuals in July, Gledhill said (Los Angeles Times, 5/1).
Reaction to Law
In a statement, Harris said, "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" (Sierra Sun Times, 5/2).
Evan Westrup -- a spokesperson for Brown -- said the law "makes our communities safer by giving law enforcement the resources they need to get guns out of the hands of potentially dangerous individuals."
However, Sam Paredes -- executive director of Gun Owners California -- said, "Going after criminals is a good thing, but the way they are paying for it is grossly unfair."
Paredes added, "They are putting the entire burden on the back of law-abiding gun purchasers" (Los Angeles Times, 5/1).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.