Gun Owners, Civil Rights Groups Seek Injunction in California “Assault Weapon” Lawsuit
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and his DOJ botched the “assault weapon” registration program, putting thousands of gun owners at risk of felony charges. Gun owners and civil rights advocates are crying foul – and taking them to court.
SACRAMENTO, CA (August 15, 2018) — Attorneys for seven California gun owners and four Second Amendment advocacy organizations announced today that they have filed an amended complaint and a new motion seeking a preliminary injunction in the civil rights lawsuit Sharp, et al. v. Attorney General Xavier Becerra, et al. over the California Department of Justice’s failures surrounding the ‘bullet button assault weapon’ registration program. A copy of the court filings can be viewed or downloaded online at https://www.firearmspolicy.org/sharp.
The amended complaint added four additional gun owners who were denied their rights by the DOJ as plaintiffs, and also added the DOJ’s Chief of the California Justice Information Services Division, Joe Dominic, as a defendant. The motion seeks to enjoin sections of the Penal Code relating to so-called “assault weapons,” including provisions that subject the possession or transportation of such firearms to serious criminal liability, including potential felony imprisonment and property seizure, “throughout the pendency of this case, or until” the plaintiffs and gun owners like them “have had a reasonable opportunity, as determined by the Court, to register the qualifying firearms through a functional registration system.”
The plaintiffs argue that the DOJ had a legal duty to provide a functional registration system throughout the registration period, but that they were unable to exercise their own rights and legal duties “due to the Defendants’ actions and failures, including but not limited to the inaccessibility, defects, and/or non-functionality of the DOJ’s CFARS-based registration system.” Because of that, the plaintiffs argue, the State violated their civil rights protected under the state and federal constitutions and denied them their statutory right to register their firearms to avail themselves of legal protections against harsh criminal laws.
“[As we argue in our motion], this is about the injustice of forcing people to comply with a law, and then depriving them of the means to do so,” said attorney George Lee, lead counsel on the case. “It is simply unconscionable that the Attorney General would even think about enforcing a law where his Department’s own failures led to many people’s inability to register their firearms in the first place.”
In a declaration filed with the court, the plaintiffs’ technical expert said that “it is very clear” the problems experienced by the plaintiffs and others across the state “were caused by either the DOJ’s CFARS servers being overloaded and/or possibly by one of the State of California datacenters itself being unavailable due to network routing or overload issues.”
“This is fundamentally a simple lawsuit about a troubling issue. Attorney General Becerra and his DOJ had one job to do: Provide a functional system for gun owners to use in registering their eligible firearms. But instead of doing their jobs, they created a huge new mess for law enforcement and put innocent people and lawfully-owned property at serious risk,” explained Firearms Policy Coalition President Brandon Combs.
“This unjust California government-created problem must be stopped immediately,” commented Second Amendment Foundation Founder and Executive Vice President, Alan Gottlieb. “Gun owners should not be put at risk due to state regulatory incompetence.”
“The bottom line is that California cannot have it both ways. If the state is going to require registration of firearms, it cannot make that process illusory and set people up for confiscation of their property,” said Gene Hoffman, chairman of The Calguns Foundation. “Here, Becerra and DOJ failed to perform their duties, failed gun owners, failed the Legislature and Governor Brown, and failed the people of the State of California.”
Elaborating on the case, Combs explained, “Because of Becerra’s and DOJ’s disastrous, incompetent, and possibly malicious handling of one simple task, now thousands of gun owners are at risk of having their guns seized or destroyed, or going to jail, simply for driving to the gun range with a firearm that they legally acquired years ago.”
“It is beyond clear that Attorney General Becerra is so distracted by federal issues and President Trump that he’s completely forgotten to fairly and properly enforce the laws of his own state – and to protect the civil rights of innocent people first and foremost,” Combs said.
“These plaintiffs and others like them should not have to face a district attorney or jury in a criminal trial because Attorney General Becerra and DOJ set them up from day one,” said Jonathan Jensen, vice-president of Firearms Policy Foundation.
The civil rights lawsuit is supported by The Calguns Foundation (CGF), Second Amendment Foundation (SAF), Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC), and Firearms Policy Foundation (FPF). The plaintiffs are represented by attorneys George M. Lee and Douglas Applegate of San Francisco-based Seiler Epstein Ziegler & Applegate LLP, as well as Raymond M. DiGuiseppe, a former California deputy attorney general and prosecutor.
Californians who tried to register their firearms as “assault weapons” before July 1 but were unable to, or who suffered a privacy breach at DOJ, should contact the organizations’ Legal Action Hotline immediately at https://www.firearmspolicy.org/hotline or by telephone at 855-252-4510.
The Calguns Foundation (www.calgunsfoundation.org) is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that serves its members, supporters, and the public through educational, cultural, and judicial efforts to advance Second Amendment and related civil rights.
Second Amendment Foundation (www.saf.org) is the nation’s oldest and largest tax-exempt education, research, publishing and legal action group focusing on the Constitutional right and heritage to privately own and possess firearms. Founded in 1974, The Foundation has grown to more than 650,000 members and supporters and conducts many programs designed to better inform the public about the consequences of gun control.
Firearms Policy Coalition (www.firearmspolicy.org) is a 501(c)4 grassroots nonprofit organization. FPC’s mission is to defend the Constitution of the United States, especially the fundamental, individual Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, through advocacy, legal action, education, and outreach.
Firearms Policy Foundation (www.firearmsfoundation.org) is a 501(c)3 grassroots nonprofit organization. FPF’s mission is to defend the Constitution of the United States and the People’s rights, privileges and immunities deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition, especially the inalienable, fundamental, and individual right to keep and bear arms.