Ruling in NRA/CRPA Lawsuit Reigns in DOJ’s Misuse of DROS Fees

A California state court has issued an important ruling holding DOJ accountable for its historical mismanagement and misuse of DROS (dealer record of sale) account funds collected as fees from gun purchasers.

The ruling came in the NRA and CRPA supported case of Gentry v. Becerra.

DROS fee funds are only supposed to be used to cover limited and specific expenses, like conducting background checks on gun buyers. But to avoid spending money from other sources on general law enforcement activities, DOJ has for years been improperly overcharging gun buyers and raiding the DROS funds to cover expenses that DROS funds were never intended to pay for. So now the Court has ordered the DOJ to review whether the $19 fee currently charged for firearm purchases in California is being improperly set too high.

The Court’s order prohibits DOJ from using DROS fee funds for unrelated law enforcement efforts, with very minimal exceptions. DOJ contended that it could use DROS funds to pay for all of its general law enforcement efforts related to illegal firearm possession. But NRA / CRPA attorneys pointed out that the DOJ was directly involved in drafting the language that it relied upon to take this position, and the evidence showed DOJ intentionally drafted the statutory language so DOJ could later mischaracterize it to make it appear that the Legislature had granted DOJ authority to use DROS funds for more programs than the legislature actually intended.

Thankfully, the Court saw through DOJ’s mischaracterizations, and concluded that DOJ is only authorized to use DROS funds to investigate people identified in the Armed Prohibited Persons System (APPS), and not just anyone DOJ suspects of being prohibited from possessing firearms.

Prior to Kamala Harris being elected California’s Attorney General in 2010, collection of excessive DROS fees had generated a surplus of nearly $15 million. Since first established at $19 per transaction (and $15 for each additional handgun) however, DOJ has never done the statutorily required review to determine whether the current $19 DROS fee is “no more than necessary to fund” the certain specifically authorized costs it is supposed to cover. DOJ failed to identify any internal process that would trigger the mandatory review of the current fee, and instead offered vague excuses about the level of review it should perform. And DOJ failed to produce any documentation to substantiate its claim that it performs “regular monitoring” of the DROS fee as required by law. So the Court found that DOJ’s failure to review the amount of the DROS fee since 2004 was “insufficient to comply with the ministerial duty” imposed on DOJ, and that DOJ must now conduct such a review.

In other words, DOJ has been charging gun buyers too much for the DROS fee, spending DROS money on unauthorized expenses, and going out of its way to avoid accounting for it.

The ruling in the Gentry case serves as yet another example of DOJ’s constant overreach, mismanagement, and blatant disregard for its obligations, and for the rights of law-abiding gun owners.

For over 20 years, the NRA and CRPA Regulatory Watchdog Program has been holding DOJ accountable. To stay informed on this case, as well as other important Second Amendment issues in California, make sure you are subscribed to NRA and CRPA email alerts. And if you are interested in being a plaintiff in a lawsuit like this, including the upcoming lawsuit challenging the recently enacted ammunition sales restrictions, please contact NRA and CRPA attorneys at [email protected] for more information.

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