The state already maintains a database with 20,000 names of people suspected of possessing weapons they shouldn’t have because they are felons, have restraining orders out against them or have serious mental illness. But law enforcement was unable to pursue them without the $24 million generated by Senate Bill 140.
The money will allow the California Department of Justice, hamstrung by recent budget cuts, to hire 36 new special agents and support staff, according to the Los Angeles Times. They are expected to fan out this summer in big cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, Fresno and Riverside. Department special agents have reportedly confiscated about 4,000 weapons from a like number of people over the past two years.
Sales figures indicate that the 20,000 people in the database possess 39,140 handguns and 1,679 assault weapons. Officials expect it to take three years to round them all up. The list grows by about 20 or 30 a day.
The database system for tracking those in illegal possession of weapons has been on the books since 2001, but only operational since 2007. Law enforcement has used the Armed Prohibited Persons System (APPS) to conduct 9,400 investigations and collect more than 10,000 guns. A sweep last September netted 553 weapons, including 141 assault weapons. In the first 11 months of 2012, DOJ agents seized 2,033 firearms, 117,000 rounds of ammunition and 11,072 illegal high-capacity magazines.
The NRA, and some Republicans who voted against SB 140, said they don’t object to the effort, but don’t like the way it is being paid for. The money is being transferred from an account funded by gun purchasers’ background check fees that is in surplus. They said the money should come from the state General Fund.
Nationally, the NRA and Republicans have stymied all efforts at controlling guns in the country. Congress has been unable to overcome their objections to legislation on assault weapons, large capacity magazines, armor-piercing bullets and background checks, despite overwhelming public support in the wake of the Newtown Sandy Hook shootings that claimed the lives of 20 children and six adults.
Response to the gun collection in the summer could be problematic with gun advocacy groups and websites already encouraging resistance. Freedom Outpost recommended last week that when the authorities come to the door asking for illegal guns, “Don’t let them in.”
The website’s defiant stance against the government was echoed in a poll recently conducted by Fairleigh Dickinson University which found that 44% of registered Republican voters nationwide believed armed rebellion would occur in the United States, perhaps within the next few years. Twenty-seven percent of independent voters and 19% of Democrats concurred.
State lawmakers are currently considering around a dozen other pieces of gun legislation.