(Sacramento, CA – June 11, 2014) – Two California gun owners, Paul Gladden and “Alvin Doe”, have filed for an injunction against defendants Attorney General Kamala Harris and Department of Justice Bureau of Firearms chief Stephen Lindley seeking to prevent them from enforcing a policy that denies the sale of handguns to licensed and background-checked Californians.
On May 8, 2014, the DOJ’s Bureau of Firearms sent a letter notifying firearms dealers in the state of a new enforcement policy that prevents Californians who hold both a federal firearms license and a state Certificate of Eligibility, or “COE”, from purchasing more than one handgun in a 30 day period. A COE requires a full fingerprint-based background check and state monitoring of the certificate holder’s criminal record.
According to gun rights groups The Calguns Foundation and California Association of Federal Firearms Licensees, the lawsuit’s backers, the new policy represents a 180-degree departure from the DOJ’s prior policy of allowing such purchases. Reinforcing the groups’ allegation that the gun policy has shifted under Attorney General Harris is a statement by former DOJ Firearms Division Deputy Attorney General Alison Merrilees. In a 2005 email, Ms. Merrilees said that “it is [DOJ’s] long-standing policy” to exempt “all firearms purchases” made by licensees such as plaintiffs from the “one gun per month” limit, “even if the firearms are not curios and relics.” Ms. Merrilees is now deputy chief of staff to Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, who most recently authored AB 1014, a bill that would allow “anyone” to ask a court for a “Gun Violence Restraining Order” and “firearm seizure warrant.”
In the latest court filing, the lawsuit’s plaintiffs say that they are “likely to prevail on the merits” of the lawsuit and “seek a preliminary injunction to block the DOJ from continuing to enforce its erroneous interpretation of state law.” The brief also declares that “[i]t is this Court’s obligation to strike [the DOJ’s policy] down.”
In addition to the gun owners’ argument that the DOJ is wrongly interpreting the law, they say that the policy “is also void because the DOJ failed to comply with the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”) before its adoption.”
The APA is “designed to provide the public with a meaningful opportunity to participate in the adoption of state regulations and to ensure that regulations are clear, necessary and legally valid,” according to the California Department of Administrative Law.
Gene Hoffman, chairman of CGF, explained that “the law is clear and unambiguous: properly-licensed and background checked Californians like Paul Gladden are entitled to purchase as many handguns as they like within any 30-day period.”
“Ms. Harris is improperly substituting her own anti-gun rights policy preferences for black-letter law,” he went on to note.
CAL-FFL President Brandon Combs mirrored Hoffman’s concerns.
“Not only is her policy way off target, Attorney General Harris is setting a tremendously poor example as the state’s highest law enforcement officer,” he said. “Government officials should never act with such blatant disregard for the law and civil rights.”
The motion for preliminary injunction is expected to be heard by Sacramento Superior Court Judge David I. Brown (Department 53) on July 8 at the 800 9th Street courthouse in Sacramento.