Mentally ill and armed

California has the country’s strictest gun laws. However, that does not do much if that legislation is not applied properly.

A case in point is the state law that requires courts and organizations that provide mental health care to file a report with the California Department of Justice when they determine that someone can no longer possess or buy a weapon.

The law is reasonable. This restriction is justified by the tragedies that armed individuals with mental issues have unleashed, like the ones in a Colorado movie theater, a Connecticut elementary school and others. The issue is that the process ordered by the state law to prevent one of these massacres from happening in our state is not being followed.

State Auditor Elaine Howle recently found that from 2010 to 2012, 34 courts failed to make those notifications 2,300 times. The audit mainly holds responsible the Department of Justice for not properly communicating the law’s requirements to the courts and mental health facilities.

It is known that in California, there are approximately 20,800 people who are still armed despite being mentally ill, felons or fitting into other categories that forbid them from possessing a firearm. In May, the governor signed a law providing $24 million for the Department of Justice’s effort to confiscate firearms from these individuals.

Critics of gun control laws always argue that additional restrictive laws are not what is needed, but the enforcement of existing laws. Unfortunately, the Justice Department’s inefficiency in this case feeds that perception. And much worse, it endangers safety. Let’s not wait until a tragedy happens in California to tackle this problem.