The state Senate approved a bill Thursday to increase funding for a Department of Justice program that takes firearms out of the hands of people prohibited from owning them, a move that may be welcome in crime-weary communities like Milpitas.
Senate Bill 140, by state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, passed the Senate on a 31 to 0 vote, a representative with the Office of Senate Floor Analyses said March 7 in a phone interview. The bill then moved to the state Assembly.
The bill would appropriate $24 million to the Justice Department from the Dealer Record of Sale account to allow for 36 additional agents to be hired for the Armed and Prohibited Persons program, according to Attorney General Kamala D. Harris, who applauded state Senate passage of SB 140.
In 2012, DOJ agents investigated 2,148 cases and seized 1,963 weapons, including 261 assault weapons, and 117,887 rounds of ammunition, according to Harris.
"Taking guns away from dangerous, violent individuals who are prohibited by law from owning them is smart and efficient law enforcement," Harris said in a statement released by her staff. "I commend the State Senate for strongly supporting this critical investment in public safety. Senate Bill 140 will allow us to double law enforcement's efforts to take guns off the street."
California is the only state with an Armed and Prohibited Persons program, which identifies people who have a legally registered gun, but are later prohibited from owning it, according to Harris' staff.
A person becomes prohibited if he or she is convicted of a felony or a violent misdemeanor, is placed under a domestic violence restraining order, or is determined to be mentally unstable, according to Harris' staff.
"As we continue to debate how to best curb gun violence, this part of the solution is a no-brainer," said state Senate president pro tempore Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento.
"When we know thousands of guns are in the wrong hands, and we know who those people are, we need to eliminate as much of that danger as quickly as possible. This is a small but vital investment to protect our communities," Steinberg said.
When she took office in 2011, Harris added 10 agents, making a total of 33, to the Armed and Prohibited Persons program in order to increase the number of guns confiscated from prohibited persons, according to her staff.
The APPS database cross-references five databases to identify those who legally purchased handguns and registered assault weapons since 1996 with people who are prohibited from owning or possessing firearms.
The database was completed in November 2006, and the first statewide sweep was conducted in 2007.
"There have been too many shootings, too much violence," state Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Salinas, who represents Gilroy and Watsonville, said last month when discussing an anti-gang bill to help fund the California Gang, Crime, and Violence Prevention Partnership Program.