Senators Leno and Steinberg Introduce Bill to Help Prevent Gun Violence

January 29, 2013

SB 140 Allows the Department of Justice to Utilize Existing Resources to Confiscate Illegally Possessed Firearms

SACRAMENTO – Senator Mark Leno and Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg today introduced legislation that would take illegally possessed firearms off the streets and out of the hands of potentially dangerous people who are barred from possessing them. SB 140 allows the California Department of Justice (DOJ) to use existing resources to enhance the identification and confiscation of handguns and assault weapons that are in the hands of convicted felons, persons who are determined to be mentally unstable, and others who have criminal backgrounds that prevent them from legally possessing guns.

“When it comes to preventing gun violence in California, we are at a distinct advantage because we are the only state in the nation that utilizes a unique system to identify persons who are barred from possessing firearms,” said Senator Leno, D-San Francisco. “However, we have only been able to confiscate a small number of these illegally possessed weapons due to lack of resources. Our reinvestment in this statewide identification program will help eliminate a troubling backlog and growing mountain of illegal weapons, which threatens public safety in our communities and prevents us from enforcing existing firearms laws.”

“While the debate over gun regulations is contentious, most everyone agrees that guns must be taken out of the hands of those who we know are potentially dangerous to the community. Department of Justice officials tell us that with additional resources to pay for additional agents, they could clear the backlog more quickly,” said Senator Steinberg, D-Sacramento. “Providing that funding as quickly as possible by allowing DOJ to use reserves in ‘dealer record of sales’ fees is a wise and worthy investment to provide better protection of our neighborhoods.”

The Bureau of Firearms has identified 19,784 Californians who illegally possess an estimated 40,000 handguns and assault weapons. Every day, this list of prohibited persons owning firearms grows by 15 to 20. SB 140 would allow the DOJ to use reserve funds from the Dealer Record of Sale account to enforce the department’s existing Armed Prohibited Persons System (APPS) program. The amount of funding provided to the DOJ will be determined on evidence-based need.

APPS, which began in 2007, cross-references various databases to find people who legally purchased handguns and registered assault weapons since 1996 with people who are prohibited from owning or possessing firearms.

Senator Leno authored legislation in 2011 that boosted the DOJ’s ability to confiscate illegally possessed weapons. That bill, SB 819, also used funds from the Dealer Record of Sale account to provide the DOJ with additional agents to enforce APPS. As a result, agents last year were able to seize more than 2,000 firearms, 117,000 rounds of ammunition and 11,072 illegal high-capacity magazines in targeted sweeps.

SB 140 was introduced as an urgency measure and will be heard in Senate policy committees this spring.

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