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Phil Matier: Thousands Of Guns Illegally Owned In California

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A stack of rifles is seen during a gun buy back program on December 15, 2012 in San Francisco. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

A stack of rifles is seen during a gun buy back program on December 15, 2012 in San Francisco. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – California law enforcement officials said that close to 20,000 registered gun owners in the state are not supposed to have guns, but they still do.

The registered owners lost their legal rights to own a gun for a number of reasons – felony convictions, domestic violence incidents, mental health conditions or addiction to narcotics.

Now, the state said it could take three years and millions of dollars to confiscate the weapons.

At a joint legislative hearing on Tuesday, Stephen Lindley, chief of the Bureau of Firearms for the state Department of Justice, said that the gun owners have approximately 39,000 firearms. He said his department is too short-staffed to confiscate the weapons, which are recorded in the state’s Armed Prohibited Persons database.

“It’s a very strategic operation. It involves a lot of people and a lot of thought,” said California Attorney General Kamala Harris. “And those are resources.”

She said more than $20 million a year is needed to deal with the backlog.

Sam Paredes with Gun Owners of California agreed that resources should be allocated to the effort. “To have the personnel, the hardware and the software to be able to process all of these mental health records,” he said.

Harris has been in correspondence with Vice President Joe Biden about replicating California’s database around the country.

State senators Darrell Steinberg and Mark Leno have introduced legislation to fund reduction in the database backlog.

You can hear Phil Matier’s comments Monday through Friday at 7:50am and 5:50pm on KCBS All News 740AM and 106.9FM.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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