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California governor signs bill to speed up gun seizures

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June 30, 2011: California Gov. Jerry Brown signs the state budget.AP

Gov. Jerry Brown announced Wednesday that he has signed legislation expanding the ability of state agents to seize firearms from nearly 20,000 Californians who are not allowed to have them.

They collectively own more than 39,000 handguns and 1,670 assault weapons but are prohibited from owning firearms because they have been convicted of crimes, ruled mentally unstable or are subject to domestic violence restraining orders.

The bill authorizes $24 million for the state Department of Justice's Armed and Prohibited Persons program. The money will go to hire more agents to confiscate the weapons and reduce the backlog over the next three years.

The program, which is unique to California, cross-checks five databases to find people who bought weapons they are no longer legally allowed to own.

SB140 by Senator Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, authorizes $24 million to hire more agents to confiscate the weapons and reduce the backlog over the next three years.

The bill is the first of numerous firearms bills introduced by lawmakers in response to recent mass shootings in Connecticut and Colorado. The Democratic governor signed the bill without comment.

"California is leading the nation in a common-sense effort to protect public safety," Attorney General Kamala Harris, who oversees the state Department of Justice, said in a statement.

U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson, a Democrat from St. Helena, introduced HR848 earlier this year to create a U.S. Department of Justice grant program for states that want to develop similar programs.