The state of California is being sued for “refusing” to provide a way for gun owners burdened by a new registration requirement to comply with the law, ultimately forcing them to “face becoming criminals because they couldn’t do what the law requires.”
The lawsuit was filed by the Second Amendment Foundation, which named California’s Department of Justice and Attorney General Xavier Becerra as defendants in its request for an injunction against the agency “for failing and refusing to establish a properly functioning internet-based firearms registration system.”
Joining SAF in the legal action are the Calguns Foundation, Firearms Policy Coalition, Firearms Policy Foundation and three private citizens. The lawsuit was filed in Shasta County Superior Court.
“We’re suing because California DOJ’s Firearms Application Reporting System (CFARS) broke down during the deadline week for people to register their firearms in accordance with new state laws,” said SAF Executive Vice President Alan M. Gottlieb.
“For a whole week the system was largely inaccessible. People who wanted to comply with the law simply couldn’t and now they face becoming criminals because they couldn’t do what the law requires.”
The organization explained the state’s required process, during the week of June 25-30, “which was the statutory registration deadline,” didn’t work.
It was “inaccessible and inoperable on a variety of web browsers across the state. Many users who were able to initially log in and begin the process could not finish because the system crashed, obliterating all of their work,” SAF said.
“It’s like a bad version of ‘Catch-22’,” Gottlieb said. “The government required registration by the deadline, but the online registration failed and people couldn’t register. They’re required to obey the law, but the system broke down, making it impossible to obey the law. Now these people face the possibility of being prosecuted. We simply cannot abide that kind of incompetence.”
FPB President Brandon Combs charged Becerra cares about “everything but the Constitution, the rule of law, and law-abiding California gun owners.”
“If Becerra spent as much time doing his job as he does talking about his pet crusades against the federal government, hundreds of thousands of Californians would not be in legal jeopardy right now,” he said.
Gene Hoffman, CGF chairman, said it’s clear California wants to take guns away from law-abiding residents.
SAF said the goal is to have the court prevent DOJ from enforcing the law to allow individual plaintiffs and other citizens in the same situation to register their legally possessed firearms through a “reliable and functional registration system.”
Guns.com reported three gun owners each tried “for weeks” to comply with the state’s demands through its own system.
The complaint says Becerra’s office knew as far back as March the site was essentially nonfunctioning and the staff was underfunded.
“[One owner], for example, documented 50 attempts which either timed out or froze up without completing while multiple calls to technical support only met with automated instructions on how to clear browser settings and delete cookies,” Guns.com said.
“Many people, including our clients, did everything they could to comply with the law and avoid criminal liability,” said George M. Lee, a lawyer on the case. “They used updated web browsers, hardware, different devices, and even did internet speed tests to make sure it wasn’t a problem on their end.”
The report pointed out that of some 13 million gun owners in the case, “a public records request filed by GunsAmerica detailed that just 6,213 individuals successfully registered 13,519 weapons before the June 30 deadline. Some 5 million rifles have been legally sold over the counter in the state since the use of bullet buttons became available in 2001.”
Possession of an unregistered “assault weapon” under California law is generally a misdemeanor but can still bring with it up to a year in prison. However, prosecutorial discretion in the state can allow felony charges to be pursued in possession cases which can translate into much higher penalties.