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).
terence francis
Yawn - yet more rhetorical rantings...
Clark Norwood
Catherine, yes it's a lot of money. Works out to $641 per firearm. Make that assessment agains the person who is in violation and make the program pay for itself. If they have the money they pay up front and go to trial. If they can't pay cash up front then put them to work on state or local county work projects until they have worked off the assessment then send them to trail for having a firearm when they are prohibited from having one. There funding the project has been handled!
Eric Swift
While this may be a State funding problem - the results could be devistating for local government, school districts, and/or communities. Local City and County leaders should look to ways to assist the State in this endeavor.
Catherine Mone
Wait a minute. It will take 25 Million bucks to round up 39,000 guns? And it will take 3 years? How are we supposed to believe that? What process is being used?
Clark Norwood
Allen, when you say "Take action now, with the hope that the feds will come in and help." The key word there is "hope". When was the last time government agencies were successful in an "if I do this now you will do this later" situation? The action now always gets done but the later action never seems to get done for a variety of reasons, usually it gets down to MONEY. Anything that needs to be done needs to be done at the same time, in full, for all parties envolved.

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