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California, other states not doing enough to take guns from felons, new study finds

 (Andrew Burton / Getty Images)
(Andrew Burton / Getty Images)

A national gun control group that helped write California’s Proposition 63 released a study Thursday indicating that thousands of felons disqualified from owning guns are keeping their firearms in this state and most others because of the lack of an effective enforcement mechanism.

The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence helped draft Proposition 63 on the Nov. 8 ballot in California, a measure that would create a new system for making sure firearms are relinquished once the owner is disqualified because he or she is convicted of a felony, is found to suffer from severe mental illness or is the target of a restraining order for domestic violence.

“A startling gap in state law continues to undermine California’s work to keep deadly weapons out of the hands of those most likely to perpetrate violence,” said the report, which found 45 states lack an effective process to make sure guns are surrendered.

When someone buys a gun and then is later disqualified, state law requires that person to relinquish possession of any firearms, but the law includes few mechanisms to ensure that such dangerous individuals actually give up their guns.

“In California, law enforcement reported that in 2014 alone, more than 3,200 people kept their guns after a new criminal conviction, many of whom went on to commit crimes with those guns,” the report says. “Relinquishment laws would stop this.”

The current backlog of people listed on the Armed Prohibited Persons System as having a gun is at 10,891, according to the state attorney general's office.

The study found that California taxpayers spend $285 million annually on arresting and jailing felons on weapons charges involving possession of a firearm by a prohibited person.

Under Proposition 63, courts would be required to inform felons upon conviction that they must turn their firearms over to local law enforcement, sell their firearms to a licensed dealer or give their firearms to a dealer for storage.

The courts would assign probation officers to check and report on what prohibited individuals did with their firearms. If a firearm has been kept, the court would order its removal.

“The relinquishment provision is arguably the most critical element of Prop. 63,” said Dan Newman, a spokesman for the campaign to pass the measure.

A spokeswoman for the National Rifle Assn. was not immediately available for comment.

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