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On Wednesday, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed controversial legislation aimed at stripping 20,000 of the state's residents of the rights to own handguns and so-called assault rifles. The politician signed a bill that will ensure funding to ban individuals from ownership if they have a serious mental illness or a criminal conviction.
These residents obtained their firearms legally, but subsequent sicknesses and legal infractions now disqualify them from the right to possess them. Brown's signature means that $24 million in surplus funds will be used to hire new special agents who will go out and locate 40,000 weapons that are currently owned by those who are not intended to have them any longer, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Budget restraints, until now, had made it difficult for the state to fully utilize a cross-check gun system it has developed. Authorities can cross-reference a list of gun owners with other data to determine who is no longer allowed to own a firearm, based on criminal conviction and mental illness. With the list of people falling into these categories growing, it has become immensely difficult.
TheBlaze's Liz Klimas describes the system as follows: "A Prohibited Armed Persons File is created through the Office of the Attorney General. When a person is entered into the Automated Criminal History System, the Consolidated Firearms Information System is also checked to see if they might have possession of a gun. The same check is conducted for those involuntarily admitted into the hospital for mental illness as well."
Proponents of SB 140 claim that the bill will help bridge the financial divide. The Los Angeles Times explains:
State Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) introduced SB 140, which takes the money from fees paid when people buy guns and allocates it to a three-year campaign to take guns from those ineligible to have them.
“We know for the safety of our communities that these people should not possess guns, and our reinvestment in this tracking program gives us the opportunity to confiscate them,” Leno said in a statement.
The measure was opposed by Sam Paredes, executive director of Gun Owners of California, who said it should be paid for by the state general fund.
"Going after criminals is a good thing, but the way they are paying for it is grossly unfair," Paredes said. "They are putting the entire burden on the back of law-abiding gun purchasers."
But it's not only financial issues that have some debating SB 140. While it is certainly valid to argue that criminals should not have guns, the mental illness element gets a bit murky. And general questions obviously surround who will lose their firearms and what offenses and illnesses will lead to these designations.
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Take, for instance, a story that Klimas covered in March. As she reported, Lynette Phillips of Upland, California, told TheBlaze in a phone interview that she had purchased a gun years ago for her husband, David, as a present. That gun, as well as two others registered to her law-abiding husband (who does not have a history of felonies or mental illness), were seized earlier this year.
Here's why: Phillips had been in the hospital voluntarily for mental illness last year. The episode was apparently due to medication she was taking. Despite the voluntary nature of her hospitalization, it seems her ability (or her husband's rather) to own a gun has been impeded. While David has no history of sickness or criminal activity it seems ownership means that his wife has access, too -- a reality that is apparently unacceptable (read the full story here).
So, it's clear that the law will likely impact others beyond just those individuals with mental illness or criminal records; it will apparently also take aim at their friends and loved ones with whom they reside.
Images courtesy of ShutterStock.com.
(H/T: Los Angeles Times)
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