On Thursday, the California Legislature approved the allocation of $24 million to speedup the process of rounding up guns from owners who have been convicted of criminal activity or because of mental illness. The bill, SB 140, passed the Assembly with bipartisan support, 57-10.
SB 140 commits $24 million to the Armed Prohibited Persons Program, headed by the California Department of Justice. The purpose of the program is to compare databases of gun buyers in the state to those of convicted criminals who are now ineligible to own firearms
Many lawmakers, including the bill's author, Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), believe there is an urgent need for additional special agents to respond to the estimated 20,000 people who were once able to purchase guns legally, but are now disqualified because of violent criminal convictions.
"We are fortunate in California to have the first and only system in the nation that tracks and identifies individuals who at one time made legal purchases of firearms but are now barred from possessing them," Sen. Leno said in a statement.
"However, due to a lack of resources, only a few of these illegally possessed weapons have been confiscated, and the mountain of firearms continues to grow each day. This legislation makes a significant reinvestment in our state's unique tracking system to help eliminate this troubling backlog of illegal weapons and protect public safety in our communities."
Opponents of the bill argue it amounts to an unconstitutional tax because it uses a surplus of fees on gun buyers that is meant to fund background checks to provide additional funding for the seizure program.
“This fee is not for this purpose,” said Assemblyman Brian Jones (R-Santee), who was one of the ten Assembly members who voted against SB 140. "It’s an illegal law. This bill will be tied up in court for years.”
The bill, which requires a two-thirds vote, was approved unanimously by the Senate last month. It will return to the chamber for concurrence on amendments before it can move on to Governor Jerry Brown's desk.