The mother of one of the Sandy Hook victims recently made headlines when she said it was tougher for her to adopt a kitten than buy a gun. In California, buyers must go through screening processes for both. Lolita Lopez reports from Burbank for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Jan. 16, 2013.
The mother of one of the child victims of the Sandy Hook massacre in Newtown, Conn., recently made headlines when she said it was tougher for her to adopt a kitten than buy a gun.
NBC4 wanted to see if that's the case in California.
When it comes to buying a gun at Enterprise Arms in Irwindale, there are no excuses. As per state law, all who want to purchase a weapon must go through a background check. Those wanting a handgun require a special screening.
"Anyone that doesn't pass that test really shouldn't own a handgun," said store owner Dennis Lin.
Potential owners must pass a state-developed test even before moving to the background check stage. Lin says most questions refer to safety rules. When passed on site, owners then get a serial number.
"This number is associated to you for the next five years," Lin said. "After the five years, you have to retake the test."
So what about adopting a pet?
At the Burbank Animal Shelter, animal control officers ensure cats and dogs go to the right home. Stacie Wood-Levin says screening policies are even stricter at places with more resources, such as privately funded rescues.
"Most of them have individual contracts with their lawyers," Wood-Levin said. "It can say if the cat gets out, we get it back. If you don't allow us to home-visit or check the cat, we get it back."
The cats and dogs at the shelter can go with their new owner within a day or two. They receive microchips so they can be tracked, and there are follow-up visits to see how some of the animals are adjusting to their new lives.
At the gun shop, it takes 10 days for a person to receive a purchased weapon. The California Department of Justice evaluates a questionnaire and runs criminal backgrounds during this time.
"Let's say you lie on these and the background check catches you. Do not release a gun to this person," Lin said.
Lin says this applies to someone who may have not had a record before but later got into trouble.
"Let's say you even have unpaid tickets. If you have an unpaid ticket, and you try to buy a gun, a lot of times you will not pass," Lin said.
Once you fail a background check, Lin adds you can't purchase legally anywhere in California. He adds the DOJ will also investigate if there has been a change in your mental health situation.
"If you have a mental illness they actually come and take away your guns," Lin said.
There are no mental health evaluations at the time of purchase for any weapons or when adopting an animal, though changes to better the process are always on the horizon.