Thursday, April 18, 2013
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- California's one-of-a-kind program to seize guns from felons, the mentally unstable and others prohibited from owning them is close to receiving more money after an Assembly vote Thursday.
A bill from state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, was approved on a vote of 57-10, with all the opposition votes coming from Republican lawmakers. It authorizes $24 million over three years for the Armed and Prohibited Persons program to hire more agents to seize weapons.
The vote comes a day after the U.S. Senate rejected a gun control package, including a proposal to expand background checks.
The state program checks databases to identify people who bought guns legally but are no longer permitted to own them because of a felony conviction, a violent misdemeanor, a determination that they are mentally unstable or a domestic violence restraining order.
Supporters say 20,000 people in California have been identified as possessing weapons illegally. Collectively, they are believed to own more than 39,000 handguns and 1,670 assault weapons.
After the vote, Attorney General Kamala Harris said in a statement that the measure will allow her department "to double efforts to enforce the law and reduce the number of guns illegally possessed by violent and dangerous individuals."
Harris wrote a letter to Vice President Joe Biden in January promoting the program as a model for the nation.
The Department of Justice plans to hire six supervisors, 30 special agents and support staff, who will make up six teams to reduce the investigation backlog.
"This bill is not anti-gun," said Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, D-Woodland Hills. "This bill is about enforcing current law."
The National Rifle Association and other gun rights groups opposed the measure. Republican lawmakers speaking against the bill objected to using surplus fees from firearm purchases or transfers to pay for the additional enforcement. The $19 Dealer Record of Sale fee pays for background checks.
"This fee is not for this purpose," said Assemblyman Brian Jones, R-Santee.
He said money from general taxes should be used instead.
Efforts to allocate the $24 million in one year instead of three failed, with Democrats saying there is not enough money available to accelerate the timeline.
SB140 passed the Senate unanimously last month. It will head to the governor's desk after a final vote in the Senate.