Officials: Calif. Needs More Time To Eliminate Gun Ownership Backlog
During a hearing on Thursday, California Department of Justice officials told a state Senate panel that they need up to three more years to eliminate a backlog in the state's list of individuals who are prevented from owning guns because of mental health issues, violent behavior or other reasons, the Los Angeles Times' "PolitiCal" reports (McGreevy, "PolitiCal," Los Angeles Times, 4/30).
California is the only state that runs a database to cross-reference certain criminal convictions, mental health records and active domestic violence restraining orders when individuals purchase firearms (California Healthline, 3/19).
In 2013, the California Legislature allotted $24 million to the state DOJ to implement a three-year program to eliminate a backlog in the system using newly hired staff to help confiscate guns. At the time, there were 19,784 individuals on the list.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the department has spent 40% of the $24 million in funding to help reduce the backlog (Gutierrez, San Francisco Chronicle, 4/30).
A 2014 report by the state attorney general found that the backlogged list decreased by less than 20% from 2013 to 2014. The report attributed the failure to further reduce the backlog to "hiring challenges."
In March, a group of California Senate Republicans sent a letter to Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) calling for an oversight hearing to determine what led to a backlog (California Healthline, 3/19).
Details of Oversight Hearing
During the hearing this week, state DOJ officials said that the backlog had been reduced 17% to 16,396 people since 2013.
Stephen Lindley, chief of the state DOJ's Bureau of Firearms, said that the special program's funding has helped the department:
- Conduct 12,400 investigations; and
- Confiscate 5,500 firearms.
Lindley said that without the funding, the backlog could have increased to about 28,000 individuals (San Francisco Chronicle, 4/30).
However, state Sen. Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley) said she was concerned with some of the costs of the effort. In particular, she noted that 38 special agents hired and trained for $20,000 each under the program all have left their positions for different jobs within the department.
Hancock said she planned to introduce a bill that would require that the program be reimbursed for training and hiring costs for agents who leave the program within one year ("PolitiCal," Los Angeles Times, 4/30).
State Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), who authored the bill allocating the $24 million to the state DOJ, defended the department.
He said, "We have made extraordinary progress" ("PolitiCal," Los Angeles Times, 4/30).
State DOJ officials told the panel that they likely could reduce the backlog to about 10,000 by June 2016, but that more funding would be required (San Francisco Chronicle, 4/30).
However, Lindley said it likely would take two to three more years to eliminate the backlog altogether ("PolitiCal," Los Angeles Times, 4/30).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.