In a state with some of the nation's toughest gun control laws, police can be foiled by that most basic and persistent of problems, a lack of money.
In 2001, legislators led by then-Sen. Jim Brulte, a Republican, pushed one of the most innovative gun measures ever adopted by a state, Senate Bill 950. Supporters included the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, the National Rifle Association, and police.
The measure created a database called the Armed Prohibited Persons System managed by the California Department of Justice.
Police can use the system to identify people who legally acquired guns, but later are deemed to be barred from owning firearms because they have committed a crime, have had domestic violence restraining orders, or have been held because of mental illness.
In theory, police could use the database to contact the illegal gun owners and confiscate their weapons. But as the New York Times reported in an article printed in The Bee, there has been a breakdown.
There is a backlog of 18,400 names in the database, and it expands daily by 15 to 20 individuals. As the Times reported, the list has swamped law enforcement's ability to keep up. Some police departments are unaware of the list, or how to gain access to it. Many do not have money to pay to investigate names on the list.
The Times identified a troubled man who in 2008 killed his mother, a neighbor and a 4-year-old girl in Baldwin Park with a gun that he no longer was entitled to own because of mental illness. Surely, there are more cases like it.
Days after taking office last month, Attorney General Kamala Harris began homing in on the issue. That is commendable. The issue took on greater urgency after Jared Lee Loughner went on his rampage in Tucson, Ariz.
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