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Calif. AG lobbies feds for law enforcement money

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- California Attorney General Kamala Harris was in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday to lobby Congress and the Justice Department for more money to hire state and local law enforcement officers.

She also is promoting a California program that confiscates weapons from people who are prohibited from having them, a program she has said can serve as a national model as the Obama administration pursues tighter gun controls.

Harris' effort comes just two days before automatic federal spending cuts are set to take effect unless Congress and the White House reach a budget compromise.

The Democrat, in her first term as California's top law enforcement official, said certain funding should be a priority even if the federal budget is cut. That includes programs that pay for hiring local police and state anti-drug agents, who play a role in tracking international drug-smuggling cartels.

Last year, California received $58 million through federal programs, an amount that was down significantly from previous years. The state received nearly $495 million in 2009, and $114 million by 2011.

Federal agencies anticipate reducing spending by 5 percent to 10 percent without a last-minute deal on the automatic cuts.

Four California law enforcement officials are joining Harris in making her pitch.

Police chiefs Greg Suhr of San Francisco and Howard Jordan of Oakland are representing the California Police Chiefs Association and its 240 members. Retired Sacramento County sheriff John McGinness is representing the California Police Officers Association, while Santa Barbara County Senior Deputy Sheriff Mike Durant is lobbying on behalf of the Peace Officers Research Association of California and its 80,000 rank-and-file officers.

Also Wednesday, Harris was scheduled to join Rep. Mike Thompson, to promote a federal program based on California's efforts to seize guns from those who legally cannot possess them. The Democrat from St. Helena is chairman of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force.

In January, Harris wrote to Vice President Joe Biden to promote California's Armed Prohibited Persons System, which cross-checks five computerized databases to find people who bought firearms but are not permitted to own them.

Since 2006, the system has led to the confiscation of more than 10,000 illegally held weapons from felons, the mentally ill and others. There is a nearly 20,000-person backlog in the program because there are too few agents to seize the weapons.

California is the only state with such a system, although Thompson is introducing legislation that would help other states establish similar programs.

Harris has been in the nation's capital for a meeting of the National Association of Attorneys General.

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