In California, we have some of the nation’s strongest gun laws. Even so, too little attention is directed to a large problem: criminals and mentally ill people who illegally own guns.
We should all be able to agree that some people shouldn’t be allowed to own a firearm — convicted felons, domestic abusers and people who have serious mental illness.
The California Department of Justice maintains a database, the Armed Prohibited Persons System, to track people who illegally own guns and is responsible for retrieving these weapons. Although the department has cut the list in half over the last five years, progress has come to a grinding halt.
It has a backlog of more than 10,000 people who illegally own weapons. Last year, the department managed to recover firearms from a mere 408 people. At this rate, it will take more than 25 years to clear the backlog. That is unacceptable.
We have asked the Legislature to allocate $25 million over the next two years to seize these illegal guns. But we aren’t just throwing money at the issue.
Californians deserve to know their tax dollars are being spent efficiently so our plan includes a provision to redirect the money to local law enforcement if the department doesn’t produce meaningful results. If it can’t cut the backlog in half within a year, local police and sheriffs departments will receive the rest of the funding to finish the job.
Whether it’s handled by the state or local law enforcement, removing firearms from dangerous people is vital to public safety. With the additional funding, we can drastically reduce illegal guns in California and help make our neighborhoods safer.
Melissa A. Melendez, a Lake Elsinore Republican, represents the 67th state Assembly District and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Catharine Baker, a Dublin Republican, represents the 16th state Assembly District and can be contacted at Assemblymember.email@example.com.