California Gov. Jerry Brown announced Wednesday that he has signed a bill providing $24 million to state agencies to tackle large scale gun seizures from the nearly 20,000 Californians who are not allowed to have them.
An estimated 39,000 handguns and 1,670 assault weapons were bought legally, but the gun owners have since been disqualified due to criminal convictions, serious mental illness, or restraining orders.
"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 the governor’s spokesman, Evan Westrup.
The bill provides $24 million to the state Department of Justice’s Armed and Prohibited Persons program, which cross-references five databases to uncover those gun owners who have lost their right to ownership.
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California is the only state with a database of this sort to help identify people disqualified from owning firearms. Officials at the Justice Department said the list grows from 15 to 20 names every day.
The program currently has a large backlog of gun confiscations. Money from the bill will allow them to hire more agents and reduce the backlog over the next three years. New agents will be dispatched primarily to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, Fresno and Riverside.
Over a dozen new gun measures have been introduced in California since the December mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.
"California is leading the nation in a common-sense effort to protect public safety," said Attorney General Kamala Harris, who oversees the state Department of Justice, in a statement.
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The National Rifle Association opposed the measure. Sam Paredes, executive director of Gun Owners of California, would rather the gun seizures be paid for by the state general fund.
"Going after criminals is a good thing, but the way they are paying for it is grossly unfair," Paredes said. "They are putting the entire burden on the back of law-abiding gun purchasers."
Paredes believes many of the names on the list are gun owners who don’t know they are now disqualified to own a firearm. He suggested an education campaign rather than hiring more agents.
The Armed and Prohibited Persons program currently has 33 special agents. In the last two years they reviewed 4,000 people and confiscated about as many firearms, 300 of which were assault weapons, officials said.