California’s state assembly voted Thursday to spend more money to enforce the state’s policy of confiscating guns from people banned from owning them.
“This bill is not anti-gun,” said Bob Blumenfield (D-San Fernando Valley), “this bill is about enforcing current law.”
The state Department of Justice uses its Armed Prohibited Persons System to track people who legally purchase guns and later lose the right to keep them.
People end up on a list if they commit a felony or show a history of violence, including domestic violence. People diagnosed with certain mental illnesses also lose their right to own guns.
There are currently 20,000 names are on the state’s list of prohibited gun owners. About 3,000 names are typically added each year.
“The [Dept. of Justice] wants to go after these guys,” Blumenfield told the Assembly. “They need the money to do it.”
SB140 would give the agency $24 million a year for three years for additional agents to work on the backlog. The money would come from fees paid by gun purchasers for background checks.
Some Republicans in the state legislature have said California should enforce existing gun laws before adding new ones. During floor debate of SB 140, several said they support the goal of taking guns from dangerous people, but that it was wrong to finance the measure with user fees.
“A fee has to benefit the payer of the fee,” said Assemblywoman Diane Harkey (R-Dana Point). She urged Democrats to instead pay for the program from the state’s general fund. “Otherwise the action you’re taking today will be challenged," Harkey said. "You won’t have the financing and we’ll be back in a bind again.”
Despite those objections, and lobbying from the National Rifle Association, Harkey and Southern Californian colleagues Don Wagner (R-Irvine) and Brian Nestande (R-Palm Desert) voted for the measure. The final vote was 58-10.
The bill returns now to the Senate for amendments. If Governor Brown signs the legislation it would take effect immediately.