Known as the Armed Prohibited Persons System, the program examined in a recent state audit targets Californians who became ineligible to own guns due to mental illness or criminal convictions. As of Jan. 1, the Department of Justice will be able to compare the list against a data on long gun purchases made after that date.
Among the issues spotlighted during a Wednesday hearing of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee were a massive backlog of gun owners yet to be reviewed and gaps in communication between courts and mental health providers, who are able to determine when someone forfeits his right to possess firearms, and the Department of Justice.
"I want to get this problem solved," said Assemblyman Allan Mansoor, R-Costa Mesa, who peppered witnesses with questions about data sharing. "I think it's embarrassing, quite frankly."
Three courts surveyed by the state auditor's office failed to consistently report banned individuals to the Department of Justice, State Auditor Elaine Howle said. The audit found 22 mental health facilities not on the Department of Justice's outreach list.
Howle recommended that courts, like mental health facilities, be required to communicate with the Department of Justice within 24 hours of determining someone should be barred from owning guns.
"We think the department of justice needs to do a better job of reaching out to courts and reminding them of their reporting requirements," Howle said.
Amid a broad push for tighter gun control laws, the Legislature this year approved an extra $24 million for recovering guns from people on the prohibited persons list. California has confiscated about 4,000 guns in sweeps since 2011, Howle said.
In a sign of strain on the program, the Department of Justice hadn't vetted the status of some 380,000 gun owners as of July. Steve Lindley, director of the California Department of Justice's Bureau of Firearms, said they have since reduced that backlog by about 47,000 people.
Enforcement appears to be lagging as well: the state audit found 20,800 people with mental illness who had not had their guns confiscated.
The department seems likely to have plenty of incoming information to occupy staff: Lindley noted that firearms sales have risen dramatically over the last few years, from 600,000 in 2011 to more than one million in 2013.
PHOTO: Blake Prior, center, completes paperwork for the purchase of a rifle at Auburn Outdoor Sports Wednesday December 11, 2013 in Auburn, Calif. The Sacramento Bee/Paul Kitagaki Jr.