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New Times / Shredder

The following article was posted on October 30th, 2013, in the New Times - Volume 28, Issue 14 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from New Times [newtimesslo.com] - Volume 28, Issue 14

Crack slippers


I was going to get around to mopping up that puddle sitting directly under the frayed wire running from my electrical outlet to the toaster oven, but I’ve been really overworked lately. Like really overworked.

How overworked? First, I had to carry a big bag of ice from my car to my sink, all by myself. I’ve been stocking up, in case I accidentally cut off one of my toes on that knife I dropped last week and I need to pack that little piggy for an emergency trip to the place where they reattach pieces of you. There’s a place that does that, right?

Anyway, then the bag I was carrying snagged on some jagged wood sticking out from my wall that I’ve been meaning to repair—I don’t know how that happened, by the way, except I have a vague memory of an incident involving a wood chipper and a bowling ball during my last knitting club meeting—and all the ice poured out across the floor.

So then I had to get a heater to melt and evaporate the mess, but I figured I could just open the door on my toaster oven, crank up the dial, and wait for science to be my maid.

It’s taking a real long time, and—like I said before—I’d get a mop, but I’ve got a lot to do. I’m sure I’ll be fine, though.

Just like I’m sure none of the almost 21,000 people in this state who shouldn’t have a gun but nonetheless do will pose any threat to my life. What are the odds of something bad happening that could have been prevented with some focus and effort?

State Auditor Elaine M. Howle released a report just before Halloween, dropping it on California’s porch like a flaming bag of dog poop welcoming us out of our front doors into a night full of uncertainty. Maybe the timing was a good thing, because with children running their grubby little feet up and down any and every municipality in their search for sugar, it’s a good thing to know that there could be more than pretend monsters hiding in the shadows.

It seems that a while back, some government body or other—this one is called the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, and our own local assemblyman, Katcho Achadjian, is a member—wanted somebody to look into whether the Department of Justice and mental health facilities were working well enough together to be properly identifying and reporting state residents who aren’t allowed to have a gun due to mental illness.

So the auditor dove right in and found that, nope, the system has some pretty big gaps. The auditor’s report is a beautiful thing, with clean lines and a pretty mosaic-type photo of the Golden Gate Bridge and the state flag on the cover. Just looking at it made me start humming, “California here I come! Right back where I started from … .”

But the tune died on my lips when I started flipping pages. This report is thick, and heavy as a small bag of ice, but whoever prepared it for the auditor did everybody a favor by pulling out summaries of the most salacious and terrifying bits into the margins.

My main takeaways:

  • More than few courts —the report’s word was “many,” but why use one when you can use several?—didn’t know state law required them to report certain mental health determinations to the Department of Justice.
  • The 34 courts surveyed for the report collectively admitted to not reporting about 2,300 determinations they should have reported over three years.
  • Out of three courts the auditor’s team visited, a resounding none of them was properly complying with state law, and—not surprisingly—each of them interpreted what law they were aware of differently. These are courts, after all. You say “mandatory,” they say “potato.” And then they eat a sandwich.
  • The Department of Justice can’t handle its workload. It’s too busy doing other stuff, to which I can absolutely relate. I won’t be throwing any stones here in this glass house—mostly because I don’t need one more thing to fix to keep me from getting maimed or dying.
  •  When the courts did do it right, they still did it wrong. Of eight decisions the auditor reviewed regarding what are known as “armed prohibited persons,” three of the decisions were deemed incorrect.
  •  Finally, as I mentioned before, the Department of Justice reported that there were more than 20,800 people deemed “armed prohibited persons” as of July 31 of this year, and none of them had their firearms confiscated.

 
To its credit, the Department of Justice, in its response to the report, went through and basically said, “Yeah, we agree, we agree, we agree.” Which is great for moving forward, but still doesn’t take those guns away from the people who really shouldn’t have them. Some of the auditor’s suggestions, will, of course, ultimately lead to firearms being confiscated, but until then, it’s paperwork and interpretation and “Huh? What? I thought we were doing it right! We’re courts, after all!”

And that’s truly scary.

 

The Shredder loves a good excuse. Send one to shredder@newtimesslo.com.