Thousands of California gun owners attempted to comply with the state’s assault weapons registration scheme in the weeks before the June 30, 2018 deadline, but for many it was an exercise in futility. Users reported being unable to access the online registration site at all, or spending hours on the glitchy site only to have the site freeze without saving their information.
A group of gun owners who were unable to complete the registration process and comply with the law filed a civil rights lawsuit against the California Department of Justice Wednesday, requesting the ability to still register their firearms, “and that the Attorney General, the DOJ, and their officers and agents similarly comply with the law by allowing such registrations and ensuring they are properly and timely processed through a functioning online database as they have been required by statute to do.”
They are also asking the Court to prohibit the DOJ from enforcing those sections of the law until Plaintiffs and others similarly situated are “permitted a reasonable amount of time to register their firearms through a reliable and functioning system,” and for reimbursement of attorneys fees and legal costs.
Basically, Plaintiffs say, if they’re going to be held accountable for complying with the law, they want the CADOJ to be required to follow the law too – to provide the public with a functioning online registration site and to process the applications in a timely manner.
In addition to the three individual plaintiffs, four institutional plaintiffs – Firearms Policy Coalition, Calguns Foundation, Firearms Policy Foundation, and the Second Amendment Foundation – are named in the suit.
Under the laws passed in 2016’s Gunpocalypse, gun owners were supposed to register their weapons by January 1, 2018. CADOJ didn’t release the website until August, 2017, though, and the final regulations weren’t approved, so the deadline was pushed back to June 30, 2018. All along the website has been an expensive boondoggle. As explained in the Complaint:
Even before the statutory deadline was extended, the DOJ had requested $2,588,000 and 27 positions to implement the statutorily-mandated internet assault weapons registration system.
But in a declaration filed under oath in a separate civil action challenging the assault weapons regulations generally, DOJ Special Agent Supervisor Blake Graham, who “helped to design the public-facing application for submitting registration of bullet button assault weapons electronically via the Internet,” declared that as of March 2018, all “[t]he programmers who [had] created this system for DOJ [were] [then] working on other legislatively mandated projects that [were] also on tight deadlines.” In addition, Agent Graham explained that the “DOJ d[id] not have funding for [any] modification of the electronic registration system” and the DOJ had received funding for only 24 analysts and two managers to process registration applications. Graham described these as temporary positions that would be eliminated after one year.
Instead of taking any responsibility, the CADOJ website simply gave people standard “clear your cache and cookies” tech advice.
But, they cautioned in big red letters, don’t miss the deadline because we absolutely will not accept your application after that date!
CADOJ was aware of problems with the website for months. Jay Jacobson told CBS Bay Area in April about problems registering his gun, saying, “[T]hey’re [CADOJ] making it as difficult as possible.”
Now, due to the government’s ineptitude (but I repeat myself), there are numerous California gun owners who wanted to comply with the law but could potentially be charged with felonies through no fault of their own. Alan Gottlieb, founder and Executive Vice President of the Second Amendment Foundation, commented:
“It’s like a bad version of ‘Catch-22’. 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.”
But that’s standard operating procedure for Sacramento’s supermajority – they create the laws, but don’t follow them, and aren’t even competent enough to provide funding for their onerous regulatory schemes and bullet train dreams. As Firearms Policy Coalition’s Brandon Combs says:
“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.”
Combs also noted that by filing the lawsuit, Plaintiffs aren’t endorsing the idea of gun registration. The lack of a functioning registration mechanism essentially took away gun owners’ right to choose if they would comply with the law or not.
“Gun owners had a right to decide how they would approach these serious legal issues.
“Attorney General Becerra and his DOJ denied gun owners the opportunity to exercise their rights and make an informed choice, forcing them into the sights of fascist, hyper-aggressive special agents who kick in doors and put gun owners in jail. That’s completely unacceptable and totally deplorable.”
One of the concerns gun owners have expressed about this registration website, which requires registrants to upload photos of one’s weapon (although that’s not a requirement in the underlying law) is that untrained and ignorant Department of Justice employees would look at the photos and, because they think the weapon looks scary, accuse the registrant of breaking the law and send people to confiscate their weapons. Surprise, that happened to a Kern County man before the registration deadline.
Wednesday’s lawsuit was filed in Shasta County Superior Court. California gun owners who were unable to register their guns by the deadline and who would like to be involved in the lawsuit as a Plaintiff or by submitting a declaration detailing their experience are asked to contact Firearms Policy Coalition.