BILL ANALYSIS Ó Senate Appropriations Committee Fiscal Summary Senator Kevin de León, Chair SB 38 (de León) - Firearms prohibition: amnesty period. Amended: April 11, 2013 Policy Vote: Public Safety 7-0 Urgency: No Mandate: Yes Hearing Date: May 23, 2013 Consultant: Jolie Onodera SUSPENSE FILE. AS PROPOSED TO BE AMENDED. Bill Summary: This bill would require the Department of Justice (DOJ) to establish a 15-day amnesty period commencing not later than July 1, 2014, within which persons prohibited from firearm ownership could surrender any firearms they possess to local law enforcement agencies without being subject to criminal prosecution for that possession. In addition, this bill: Imposes a civil fine of up to $2,500 for each firearm possessed by such persons after the amnesty period ends, in addition to any criminal penalties. Provides that persons convicted of a felony would not be able to participate in the amnesty period. Requires local law enforcement agencies receiving firearms under this amnesty program to report specified information to the DOJ regarding the firearms and the person surrendering them. Requires the DOJ to record in the Prohibited Arms Persons File (APPS) the fact that specified firearms were surrendered to law enforcement. Authorizes the DOJ to conduct a public awareness campaign in conjunction with local law enforcement to promote the amnesty period. Fiscal Impact: One-time costs to the DOJ of less than $150,000 (General Fund) to enter information received in the APPS to create a record of each firearm surrendered during the amnesty period. One-time costs of less than $10,000 (General Fund) for the DOJ to provide direct written notification to non-felons on the APPS list. Potential one-time state-reimbursable costs (General Fund) for law enforcement agencies to report information to the DOJ regarding firearms surrendered during the amnesty SB 38 (de León) Page 1 period. Potential cost savings in DOJ enforcement costs to the extent the additional records result in a reduced number of investigations related to APPS listings. Potential cost savings in state and local incarceration costs to the extent individuals who surrendered firearms would have otherwise been charged and convicted of illegal possession of firearms. Potential increase in civil fine revenues to the extent collection is pursued. Background: Existing law prohibits persons who have been convicted of specified crimes from owning or possessing firearms. Under both federal and state law, for example, any individual convicted of a felony offense is prohibited for life from firearms ownership. Existing state law also imposes a 10-year firearms prohibition on any person convicted of numerous misdemeanor offenses involving violence or the threat of violence. A violation of this provision is an alternate felony-misdemeanor (wobbler), punishable by imprisonment in a state prison for 16 months, two, or three years, or in a county jail for up to one year, a fine not exceeding $1,000, or both. In addition, state law imposes a 5-year firearms prohibition on any person convicted of specified misdemeanors or found to be a danger to themselves or others due to a mental illness, as specified. A violation of these provisions is a wobbler, punishable by imprisonment in a county jail or state prison (with a prior conviction for a serious or violent felony) for 16 months, two, or three years, or in a county jail for not more than one year. Current law requires the Attorney General to maintain an online database known as the Prohibited Armed Persons File (APPS). The purpose of the file is to cross-reference persons who have ownership or possession of a firearm on or after January 1, 1991, as indicated by a record in the Consolidated Firearms Information System and who, subsequent to the date of that ownership or possession of a firearm, fall within a class of persons who are prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm. According to the DOJ, there are approximately 20,000 persons currently listed on the APPS. These prohibited persons are estimated to be in possession of over 34,000 handguns and 1,600 SB 38 (de León) Page 2 assault weapons. It is estimated that the list of armed prohibited persons in California grows by about 15 to 20 people per day. Without sufficient resources, the DOJ and local law enforcement do not have the capability to confiscate the enormous backlog of weapons, nor can they keep up with the daily influx of newly prohibited persons. To reduce this backlog, the Governor recently signed SB 140 (Leno) Chapter 2/2013 into law on May 2, 2013, which appropriates $24 million to the DOJ to enable additional resources to accelerate the identification and confiscation of handguns and assault weapons owned by prohibited persons. Proposed Law: This bill would require the DOJ to establish a 15-day amnesty period commencing not later than July 1, 2014, within which persons prohibited from firearm ownership, with exceptions, could surrender any firearms they possess to local law enforcement agencies without being subject to criminal prosecution for that possession. In addition, this bill: Imposes a civil fine of up to $2,500 for each firearm possessed by such persons after the amnesty period ends, in addition to any criminal penalties. Requires local law enforcement agencies to submit the following information to the DOJ for each surrendered firearm: o The name of the prohibited person who surrendered the firearm. o The person's date of birth. o A description of the firearm or firearms surrendered. o The serial number of the firearm or firearms surrendered. o Any other information deemed necessary by the department. Requires the DOJ to record in the APPS the fact that specified firearms were surrendered to law enforcement. Provides that a prohibited person who surrenders a firearm during the amnesty period shall not be charged with illegal possession of firearms for any firearm the DOJ has on record as having been surrendered. Provides that persons convicted of a felony would not be able to participate in the amnesty period. Authorizes the DOJ to conduct a public awareness campaign in conjunction with local law enforcement to promote the amnesty period described in this section and to educate SB 38 (de León) Page 3 prohibited persons on how to surrender firearms to law enforcement in a safe and secure manner. Related Legislation: SB 755 (Wolk) 2013 expands the list of misdemeanors that result in a 10-year prohibition from firearms possession to include drug and alcohol-related offenses. This bill is currently on the Suspense File of this committee. Staff Comments: The DOJ would incur increased one-time costs of less than $100,000 (General Fund) to enter the reports received from local law enforcement agencies into the APPS system to record information on firearms surrendered during the amnesty period. As the bill requires local law enforcement agencies to submit detailed information on each firearm received during the amnesty period, this creates a reimbursable state mandate, the costs of which would be dependent on the number of firearms surrendered during the amnesty period and the time required to collect and prepare the information to be submitted to the DOJ. The DOJ has indicated the costs to conduct a public outreach campaign are estimated at approximately $500,000 (General Fund). Because transfer records for long guns are not currently maintained by the DOJ, the firearms ownership records reflect only handguns and/or assault weapons legally acquired prior to becoming prohibited. Pursuant to AB 809 (Feuer) Chapter 745/2011, effective January 1, 2014, the requirements for reporting and records retention involving the transfer of hand guns will be extended to long guns. Because a prohibited person participating in the amnesty program who surrenders a registered handgun but possibly retains possession of an unregistered long gun that DOJ has no record of, it is not clear how DOJ will modify the APPS list, as there is currently no mechanism to determine any potential long guns an individual may still possess. But to the extent the additional records result in a reduced number of investigations related to APPS listings, this bill could result in very significant cost savings in DOJ enforcement costs. To the extent the provisions of this bill result in a reduced number of individuals being charged and convicted of illegal possession of firearms, this bill could additionally result in potential cost savings in court workload as well as local, and SB 38 (de León) Page 4 to a lesser degree state, incarceration costs. The author amendments remove the public awareness campaign provision and instead require the DOJ to provide direct written notification to non-felon persons on the APPS list.