Much has been made of mental illness in the past year, particularly in light of the tragedies in Aurora, CO and Newtown, CT.

Yesterday, a California state auditor released a report concluding that majority of California’s 58 county courts have failed to adequately report armed persons with a mental illness to the Department of Justice (DOJ).

California maintains a list of more than 20,000 people who are forbidden from possessing firearms due to prior convictions or mental illness.

According to the audit, the individuals on the list collectively own more than 40,000 guns.

“This report indicates that there may be more guns in the hands of people who shouldn’t have them,” State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said to KCRA 3.

The DOJ is responsible for overseeing and executing California’s efforts to identify firearm owners who are prohibited from possessing a weapon because of mental illness. DOJ officials carry out this duty by matching records of firearm owners against reports of individuals with mental illness. They receive these reports from the county superior courts.

The audit faults the DOJ for not sufficiently reaching out to either the courts or institutions within California’s mental health system in order to remind them to promptly report the required information.

“If justice doesn’t know about it, they can’t confiscate the firearms,” Fernandez told KCRA 3 in an interview. “Even despite being aware that courts weren’t reporting, (the DOJ) didn’t send out any information to remind them of their reporting requirements.”

The audit also faults the county court system for failing to understand and adhere to compliance standards.

Some highlights of the auditor’s findings include:

  • Of the 34 courts surveyed, it came to light that courts collectively failed to report almost 2,300 mental health determinations. Courts are required by state law to report any mental health determinations on an individual to the DOJ.
  • The DOJ had failed to contact—or even have on their list—at least 22 mental health facilities about reporting requirements.
  • The DOJ has struggled to keep up with its existing workload—it has at times had a daily backlog of cases waiting for initial review that exceeded the informal cap of 1,200 cases.

Download the California State Auditor’s Fact Sheet here or view below:

Read the entire report here or view below: