Senate OKs Bill To Boost Funds for Disarming Mentally Ill Individuals
On Thursday, the state Senate approved a bill (SB 140) that would increase funding for efforts to disarm individuals who can no longer possess guns because of mental illness or other factors, the Sacramento Bee's "Capitol Alert" reports.
The bill now goes to the Assembly (Van Oot, "Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 3/7).
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" (California Healthline, 2/19).
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 theÂ Armed Prohibited Persons System staff.
Concerns About the Bill
Sen. Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber) abstained from voting on the bill, saying, "This bill is the right thing to do, but maybe we need to take the power and authority away from the Department of Justice for their misadministration of this."Sen. Rod Wright (D-Inglewood) said that more should be done to ensure that individuals on the list know they are supposed to surrender their guns before law enforcement officials are sent to confiscate the firearms ("Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 3/7). 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.