Governor Jerry Brown today signed Senator Mark Leno and Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg’s SB 140, which takes $24 Million from a fund designated for firearm background checks and mis-appropriates it to other, unauthorized Department of Justice programs. Principal co-authors include Senators Joel Anderson of El Cajon and Loni Hancock of Berkeley. Notably, the Department is also seeking an additional budget allocation of $4 Million to replace some of the $24 Million lost through SB 140.
For years, the DOJ unlawfully over-collected Dealers Record of Sale (DROS) fees from firearm acquirers, amassing a surplus of millions of dollars. According to state law, the DROS funds had one purpose — to support the DROS electronic background check system itself.
“SB 140 is nothing less than the State of California profiting from years of unconstitutional overcharges by the California Department of Justice,” said Brandon Combs, executive director of The Calguns Foundation. “Senator Leno’s two-step theft of law abiding gun owners’ money is begging for public scrutiny, perhaps even litigation.”
Significantly, instead of using the DROS surplus to improve the integrity of the background check process and fulfill the state’s mandate to have an effective and efficient background check system, SB 140 plays a monetary shell game in order to fund the DOJ’s “Armed and Prohibited System,” a program that relies upon the DOJ’s admittedly “shoddy” Automated Criminal History System.
On July 17, 2011, the Los Angeles Times reported that the criminal records system maintained by the California Department of Justice is “so poorly maintained that it routinely fails to alert officials to a subject’s full criminal history….California has a shoddy system for collecting case results from 58 county courts and hundreds of local prosecutors and police agencies….[t]he final outcome — guilty, not guilty, case dismissed — is missing for about 7.7 million of the 16.4 million arrest records entered into the state computers over the last decade [alone],” said Travis LeBlanc, a special assistant attorney general who oversees technology operations for the DOJ.
“In other words,” explained Combs, “the DOJ’s Automated Criminal History System lacks sufficient information to determine whether an individual firearm buyer is prohibited from possessing firearms or not.”
As Bloomberg News reported in March of this year, California DOJ admitted that “merely being in a database of registered gun owners and having a ‘disqualifying event,’ such as a felony conviction or restraining order, isn’t sufficient evidence for a search warrant….the agents often must talk their way into a residence to look for weapons.”
“The bottom line is that SB 140 put the cart before the horse,” explained Combs. “Instead of using the money like they were supposed to, making sure the databases are accurate so that prohibited people don’t walk out of gun stores with guns, DOJ will now go around the state knocking on doors, begging people to give up guns they may or may not have. It’s like a Saturday Night Live skit of ‘California policymaking meets law enforcement’ – except, unfortunately, law-abiding California taxpayers and gun owners are the punchline here.”
The Calguns Foundation sued DOJ and Attorney General Kamala Harris in April over improper and excessive DROS delays to gun purchases, issues caused by DOJ under-staffing the background check program, and taking actions that exceed their statutory authority – all while DOJ was sitting on the $24 Million DROS fund surplus. That lawsuit can be viewed Here.
These CA Senators voted to pass SB 140:
- Anderson, Beall, Berryhill, Block, Calderon, Cannella, Corbett, Correa, De León, DeSaulnier, Emmerson, Evans, Gaines, Galgiani, Hancock, Hernandez, Hill, Hueso, Huff, Jackson, Knight, Lara, Leno, Lieu, Liu, Monning, Nielsen, Padilla, Pavley, Price, Roth, Steinberg, Walters, Wolk, Wright, Wyland, Yee.
These CA Assembly members voted to pass SB 140:
- Achadjian, Alejo, Allen, Ammiano, Atkins, Bloom, Blumenfield, Bocanegra, Bonilla, Bonta, Bradford, Brown, Buchanan, Ian Calderon, Campos, Chau, Chesbro, Conway, Cooley, Daly, Dickinson, Eggman, Fong, Fox, Frazier, Garcia, Gatto, Gomez, Gordon, Gorell, Gray, Hagman, Hall, Harkey, Roger Hernández, Jones-Sawyer, Levine, Linder, Maienschein, Medina, Mitchell, Morrell, Mullin, Muratsuchi, Nazarian, Nestande, Olsen, Pan, Perea, V. Manuel Pérez, Quirk, Quirk-Silva, Rendon, Salas, Skinner, Stone, Ting, Torres, Wagner, Weber, Wieckowski, Wilk, Williams, Yamada, John A. Pérez.
The following CA Assembly members voted against SB 140:
- Bigelow, Chávez, Dahle, Donnelly, Beth Gaines, Grove, Jones, Melendez, Patterson, Waldron.
No CA Senators voted to oppose the measure.
The following special interests, elected officials, and municipalities supported SB 140:
- American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees
- Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence
- California District Attorneys Association
- California Medical Association
- California Statewide Law Enforcement Association
- Chief Probation Officers of California
- City of Los Angeles
- Coalition Against Gun Violence
- County of Los Angeles
- Kamala D. Harris, Attorney General
- Peace Officers Research Association of California
- Violence Prevention Coalition
- Women Against Gun Violence
The Calguns Foundation would like to thank the National Shooting Sports Foundation, National Rifle Association, California Rifle and Pistol Association, a number of other outdoor and sporting groups, and hundreds of private individuals for their vigorous opposition to the bill.
Logo courtesy Calguns Foundation