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March 22, 2013
Kamala Harris: State role is vital in enforcing gun law


(March 22 -- By Kamala Harris, Special to The Bee)

California is a national leader when it comes to restricting felons, violent individuals and people with serious mental illness from possessing guns. How? Through a common-sense initiative called the Armed and Prohibited Persons System, APPS, that respects the rights of law-abiding gun owners in California and helps make our communities safer.

Every week, dedicated special agents from my office are out on the street taking deadly weapons from people who, by law, are no longer allowed to possess them. Last year alone, my agents confiscated 1,963 firearms: 967 handguns, 735 long guns and 261 assault weapons.

The APPS initiative is a success story, but there is more work to do. Even with dedicated teams of agents who work exclusively on finding these unlawful guns, deep funding cuts have significantly prevented my office from expanding our enforcement efforts.

That's why Senate Bill 140, a bill currently in the Legislature, is critical. SB 140 would provide the Attorney General's Office with an additional $24 million to expand this vital public safety initiative, financed through the fees that firearms owners pay when they purchase their guns.

Recently in The Bee, former Sacramento County Sheriff John McGinness suggested in an op-ed ("There is one proposed gun law that is long overdue in California," March 16) that my office should not be enforcing California's gun laws and that local law enforcement agencies - both big and small - should be tasked with that work. The opinion piece also urged that all taxpayers - not just gun owners - be required to pay for the program. Both arguments are being used right now by the National Rifle Association to defeat the measure in the state Legislature.

I strongly disagree.

My special agents have made the APPS initiative a success by addressing unauthorized gun possession as a statewide problem. This is not just an issue for urban areas or rural areas or the communities in between. All Californians deserve the increased public safety that the APPS initiative provides, which is why it is critical that the state play a leading role in rooting out unlawful gun possession throughout the state.

Our partnerships with local law enforcement are critical, and I am proud to work with sheriffs and police chiefs all over the state in making APPS enforcement a key component of California's efforts to eradicate gun violence. But our local communities should not be required to bear that burden alone.

My office is charged with enforcing state laws, and I will continue to lead this fight to protect all of our communities from gun violence. SB 140 takes the right approach by giving the Attorney General's Office the funding it needs to expand this lifesaving program.

Kamala Harris is California attorney general.

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