California to confiscate guns from 20,000 people who own them illegally
Governor signs law to allow agents to seize guns from 20,000 Californians who have been disqualified from owning them
California plans to confiscate guns from 20,000 people who bought them legally but have since been disqualified because of criminal or psychiatric problems, boosting the state’s relatively tough approach to gun control.
Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation on Wednesday allocating $24m – generated by fees taken from gun buyers at the time of purchase – to the crackdown, the first in a series of gun control bills following the Sandy Hook massacre.
“This bipartisan bill makes our communities safer by giving law enforcement the resources they need to get guns out of the hands of potentially dangerous individuals,” said Evan Westrup, a spokesman for the governor.
California’s Bureau of Firearms has identified about 20,000 people who illegally possess about 40,000 handguns and assault weapons, a list which grows by 15 to 20 daily.
The bill, known as SB140, directs $24m from the Dealers’ Record of Sale fund, a fee on gun purchases, to the state’s Department of Justice.
The money will pay for an extra 36 agents to help clear a backlog using a a database that cross-references a list of gun owners with those disqualified later from owning guns. Budget cuts had slowed the effort.
The three-year initiative will prioritise the cities of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, Fresno and Riverside.
State senator Mark Leno, a Democrat from San Francisco, introduced the bill. “We know for the safety of our communities that these people should not possess guns, and our reinvestment in this tracking program gives us the opportunity to confiscate them,” he said in a statement.
Brown is also a Democrat once mocked as Governor Moonbeam for his idiosyncrasies, but he is a gun owner and has built alliances with the beleaguered Republican minority in Sacramento. He vowed action after the massacre of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut last December. About a dozen other gun control bills are under discussion.
“California is leading the nation in a commonsense effort to protect public safety by taking guns away from dangerous, violent individuals who are prohibited by law from owning them,” said state attorney general Kamala Harris.
The group Gun Owners of California said it supported confiscating guns from criminals but complained that the bill was “grossly unfair” in forcing lawful gun owners to fund the crackdown.
The conservative journal American Thinker called the coming “dragnet” a disaster waiting to happen.
“Some innocents are going to be deprived of their second amendment rights because of mistakes, or poorly defined criteria for taking someone’s firearm. What recourse will they have then? Bad times ahead for California gun owners.”
[Photo of Gov. Jerry Brown via Shutterstock]