Mar 21 2016

CA Gun Confiscation: Terribly Flawed, Short on Funding

California gun confiscation

In 2013, California legislators gave the green light to a gun confiscation program that would involve law enforcement literally going door to door to take the firearms of some 40,000 people who had acquired them legally. While Senate Bill 140 was marketed as a way to get guns out of the hands of those who had later been disqualified for violent crimes and the mentally defective, the targets also include those who could be “potentially dangerous.” As of January 1st this year, confiscation efforts now also include individuals whose family and friends have for whatever reason decided they are a threat to themselves or others. This “gun violence restraining order” can be served without notice and can last for up to 21 days, and is supposed to provide “an opportunity for mental health professionals to provide an analysis of a person’s mental state.” The L.A. Police Department Assistant Chief calls it a “time out.”

To be served a gun violence restraining order, a family or friend only has to have a “gut feeling” about the gun owner. While a judge has to sign off on the order, lawmakers have assured residents that each case will be taken very seriously.

California is the only state that connects its crime and mental health databases to create a list of gun owners who, despite purchasing their guns legally, have been deemed no longer fit. The list is updated daily; lawmakers claim the list grows by 15 to 20 names a day. According to the California Department of Justice, only 30% of the individuals on the list have a criminal record. Others may have a record of mental illness, and others simply have a warrant for their arrest.

There have, of course, been serious problems. One man had all his guns taken away and laid out on the front porch because his wife had previously checked herself into a hospital when she became concerned that she couldn’t stop crying. When she had gone to the hospital, she had specifically told the staff that she was not a threat to herself or anyone else. Another man had his firearms taken due to felony charge from the 1970s that no longer exists. Yet another man, a licensed gun dealer, had his entire inventory taken after receiving short-term treatment for a temporary mental health issue.

The original gun confiscation bill enacted in 2013 allocated $24 million to hire 36 new DoJ agents to conquer this list of approximately 20,000 gun owners, despite already being in heaps of debt. This May, the last of the money is expected to run out, and over 12,000 of the original 20,000 people still have their firearms.

Attorney General of California Kamala Harris has been lobbying for the funding to be made permanent, claiming that the program got “335 assault weapons, 4,549 handguns, 4,848 long-guns, and 43,246 rounds of ammunition off the streets” and has made California safer. The funding was designated for only three years and was supposed to close all the cases on the state’s list. State lawmakers are much more hesitant of allocating a second round of funding, suggesting Harris is trying to spin her dying program in order to help her Senate run. Despite the AG’s claims, the program’s effect on crime rates has yet to be proven.

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