SACRAMENTO — Thousands of mentally ill Californians are not being reported to the state Department of Justice so that they can be considered for a list of those prohibited from possessing firearms, a state audit said Tuesday.
More than 20,000 people have been identified as possessing guns even though they are prohibited from doing so because of criminal records, restraining orders or severe mental illness, and the state is working to clear the backlog by sending agents out to confiscate weapons.
But, the audit said, insufficient effort from the Department of Justice and poor reporting from the state’s Superior Courts, which issue orders determining mental illness, have limited the identification of thousands of more people with mental illness.
“This report concludes that the Department of Justice has not sufficiently reached out to Superior Courts or mental health facilities to remind them of firearm prohibition reporting requirements in state law,” State Auditor Elaine Howle wrote to Gov. Jerry Brown.
Auditors surveyed 34 courts that did not appear to be submitting firearm prohibition reports to the Department of Justice’s mental health unit from 2010 through 2012, and learned that most of them were unaware of the reporting requirements. Those courts said they had not reported about 2,300 mental health determinations to the department over the three-year period.
Courts that reported some but not all mental health determinations include those in Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Santa Clara counties.
“For example, we found that the Mental Health Courthouse at the Los Angeles Superior Court was unaware of several court determinations it was required to report. Among these were those that determined that individuals were mentally incompetent to stand trial or that an individual is a danger to others,” the audit said.
The Justice Department also sometimes made bad decisions about which of the referred mentally ill should be included on the list of persons prohibited from possessing guns, auditors said.