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Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Testifies in Support of Bills Strengthening Her Crackdown on Transnational Gangs in California

Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Contact: (415) 703-5837

SACRAMENTO – Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today testified in a state Senate committee in support of a pair of bills that will assist her efforts to fight transnational gangs that are fueled by gun violence and the drug trade.

One of the bills, SB 819 by Sen. Mark Leno of San Francisco, would dedicate funding to a unique California program that confiscates firearms from people legally barred from possessing them, including convicted felons and persons determined to be mentally unstable. The state Department of Justice, Bureau of Firearms estimates there are 18,615 armed prohibited persons possessing 34,708 handguns and 1,579 assault weapons in the state.

The second bill, SB 315 by Sen. Roderick Wright of Inglewood, would make products containing pseudoephedrine – a key ingredient in the illegal manufacture of methamphetamine – available only by prescription.

“Transnational gangs are the top emerging public safety threat to the people of California,” Attorney General Harris said. “These bills will help law enforcement take guns and drugs out of the hands of gang members. This is a key step in moving toward a smart on gang crime policy.”

Sen. Leno’s legislation would revise the penal code to expand the use of existing regulatory fees collected by gun dealers throughout the state to allow the state Department of Justice to confiscate unlawful firearms. The bill would not increase these fees.

Already, agents from the Justice Department’s Bureau of Firearms work extensively with local police and sheriffs to repossess thousands of weapons from people who shouldn’t possess them.

Since California in 2007 began its unique program – called “APPS” for Armed Prohibited Persons System –to identify these people and collect their weapons, more than 7,500 guns have been confiscated, an amount that would fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

In a sweep begun last month, agents with the Bureau of Firearms, along with local police and sheriffs, seized more than 1,100 guns, 150,000 rounds of ammunition and two grenades.

Last year, state agents and Fresno police took away 73 guns, including 17 unregistered assault weapons and a silencer fashioned out of a soda bottle, from a Fresno man recently released from a mental health facility who said he was preparing for Armageddon.

Coordinated law enforcement sweeps such as the current one could quickly reduce the backlog of APPS cases, but the sweeps cost money, and there is no likelihood of new tax money. The additional funding made available under Leno’s bill will allow the state to tackle the APPS backlog, provide continuing funding for the program, and make Californians safer.

California is at the center of the methamphetamine epidemic. It ranks first in the amount of illegal meth produced. It has more “super labs” capable of making more than 10 pounds of meth in a single day than all the other 49 states combined. Labs in California and Mexico operated by international drug cartels supply about 80 percent of the meth consumed in the United States.

Wright’s bill would make a significant impact on the meth epidemic ravaging California – and the meth labs based in this state feeding the nation’s addiction. After Oregon passed legislation in 2006 requiring a prescription to purchase pseudoephedrine, the number of meth labs there dropped from 400 to 12.

For legitimate consumers, making pseudoephedrine available only by prescription is no great loss. The drug is an active ingredient in only 14 products, and there are at least 136 other over-the-counter products that treat cold and allergy symptoms.

Both bills are common-sense solutions in an age of severe budget crisis. Neither bill costs taxpayers anything additional and each would save money by eliminating the commission of future crimes.

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