California DOJ Sued for Hiding “Assault Weapon” Regulations, Violating California Constitution and Public Records Act
SACRAMENTO, CA (June 30, 2017) — Today, Sacramento resident Craig DeLuz, Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC), and The Calguns Foundation (CGF) have announced a new legal action intended to ensure that the California Department of Justice (DOJ) cannot hide its proposed regulations from the public. The action was filed after DeLuz and two civil rights advocacy organizations sought access to DOJ regulations on so-called “assault weapon” firearms so that they could review them and inform the public, but were denied.
The petitioners are represented by Paul Nicholas Boylan, an attorney based in Davis specializing in records access and government transparency issues.
In May, the Department of Justice submitted to the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) a set of regulations relating to the “Bullet Button Assault Weapons” laws that were passed and signed into law in 2016. Notably, the DOJ had submitted the regulations under the OAL’s “file & print” process, which means that the DOJ wanted the regulations to be put into law without any public notice or comment as would usually be required under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).
When that action was discovered, DeLuz went to the DOJ’s office and asked to inspect them so that he could let California gun owners know what they contained and pass information back to the groups’ legal counsel for review. But the Department turned him away at the door, claiming that the documents were “draft regulations” and “not available for public inspection” — effectively, keeping the regulations secret from 39 million Californians even though they could have become law.
“My clients recognize that the work the Department of Justice performs directly affects the rights of millions of people,” Boylan said. “The people of California have a constitutional right to examine how and why public agencies make decisions that impact other fundamental rights, and the DOJ is no exception.”
“If a record relates to the public's business, then the public agency that holds the record must be provided to anyone who wants to see it. That's the law, and the DOJ must follow it,” Boylan concluded.
“When the Department of Justice denied us access to their submitted regulations and told me that they were not available for public inspection, I was outraged and insulted,” said Craig DeLuz, FPC’s California lobbyist and a spokesperson for the organizations. “Those who claim to enforce the law should be expected to follow it.”
“The California Constitution and Public Records Act make it clear that people have a right to access and inspect information concerning the conduct of the people's business,” said Brandon Combs, the president of FPC and executive director of CGF. “We know that the Department will have more firearm and ammunition regulations coming out over the coming months, and we will not allow them to use bad faith tactics to deny the people information about these important issues.”
To help inform law-abiding gun owners about the status of the “assault weapons” laws and regulations, Firearms Policy Coalition has established a Web site at BulletButtonBan.com where it posts news and information about the issue.