Calif. guns chief: State can’t afford to disarm felons, mentally ill

Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown has boasted in the past that the state’s financial woes are finally over, but a report Wednesday said the state is unable to find the funds to disarm more than 19,700 convicted felons and the mentally ill.

More than 39,000 firearms are currently in the wrong hands, Stephen Lindley, chief of the Bureau of Firearms for the state Department of Justice, said at a joint legislative hearing.

Typically, the guns were purchased legally, but were never returned after the owners were convicted of a felony or diagnosed with an illness, The Los Angeles Times reports.

The state annually confiscates the guns of about 2,000 people on the Armed Prohibited Persons list, but the effort is like bailing out a sinking vessel, with more than 3,000 people being added to the list yearly, Mr. Lindley said.

“Despite our best efforts, the bureau does not have the funding or resources to keep up with this annual influx,” he told lawmakers.

The chief said it would cost at least $25 million to hire the staff necessary to clear the backlog over the next three years.

There is a $20 million surplus from funds collected after a gun buyer pays a fee for a background check. Democratic Sens. Mark Leno and President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg introduced a bill Tuesday that would allow officials to dip into that fund, The Times reports.

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