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COURT RULES THAT $30 MILLION LAWSUIT AGAINST CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE FOR BLOCKING LEGAL GUN SALES CAN PROCEED

June 14, 2021

LOS ANGELES, CA — Franklin Armory®, Inc. (FA) and the California Rifle and Pistol Association (CRPA) have teamed up and sued the California Department of Justice (DOJ) alleging that DOJ used technological obstacles to deliberately block the sale and purchase of legal firearms, including the Franklin Armory Title 1®, because DOJ bureaucrats wanted to stall for time to change the law and make the guns illegal.

In response to the lawsuit, DOJ asked the Court to dismiss the case. But Judge James Chalfant of LA Superior Court ruled that the claims made in the case, Franklin Armory, et al. v. California Department of Justice, et. al. should not be dismissed. The lawsuit was filed on May 27, 2020, and seeks damages over $30 million from the state.

Since January 1, 2003, licensed firearm dealers in California are required to submit all firearm purchases for background checks to DOJ electronically through the Dealer Record of Sale Entry System (“DES”). The DOJ’s DES is a web-based application designed, developed, and maintained by DOJ that firearm dealers must use to report the mandatory information to DOJ. But many firearms do not qualify as handguns, pistols, revolvers, rifles, or shotguns, or even “frames” or “receivers” for firearms, so can’t be properly classified in the DES system. Because of technical limitations built into the DES by the Department of Justice, dealers cannot accurately submit the required information through the DES for “long guns” that are undefined firearm subtypes, and they are prohibited from processing and accepting applications from purchasers of said firearms.

The Department of Justice has long known about the DES’ deficiencies and has refused multiple demands to correct it.  

“Thousands of individual buyers, owners and sellers of legal firearms were denied access to the Department’s DES transfer system, but didn’t have the resources to pursue enforcement on an individual firearm by firearm basis” said Chuck Michel, counsel for the California Rifle and Pistol Association.  “The Department’s improper actions have affected thousands of buyers and caused more than $30 million in damages.”  Michel continued, “CRPA and FA intend to hold the Department of Justice accountable.”

In the Court’s June 3, 2021 ruling against the DOJ, the court stated that:

As far as mandatory administrative duty, I think the Penal Code is relatively plain that the Department of Justice have [sic] to create an electronic transfer record or some other form of transfer record … which is required under Penal Code section 28160 for all firearms.
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[A] lawful weapon has to be subject to transfer somehow.  The D.O.J. … has the right to exercise discretion as to how that occurs, but it cannot prevent lawful weapons from being transferred, which is what the Second Amended Complaint alleges it’s doing and doing so as an underground regulation.

“This is the first step in vindicating the rights of our customers and our rights to sell lawful firearms without arbitrary and politically motivated interference from those who are charged as gate keepers of our fundamental rights,” said Jay Jacobson of Franklin Armory. “It is sad, however, that such a clear duty on the Department of Justice requires a lawsuit to enforce.” 

Significantly, the lawsuit alleges that the motivation in delaying corrections to the DES was to buy time to work with the Legislature to push a new law designating Franklin Armory Title 1® style firearms as “assault weapons,” thereby banning their sale. The DOJ’s scheme worked, because on  August 6, 2020, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 118 (“SB 118”), expanding the statutory definition of “assault weapon” to include any “semiautomatic centerfire firearm that is not a rifle, pistol, or shotgun, that does not have a fixed magazine, but that has any of a list of enumerated characteristics, like a forward pistol grip or thumbhole stock.”

DOJ’s scheme restricted Franklin Armory’s transfer of tens of thousands of centerfire versions of FAI Title 1® firearms to customers who had placed orders long before SB 118 passed. 

The Department of Justice now must answer the petition, and the case will finally move on to the next stage of litigation.  Though this case is far from over, both Franklin Armory and the California Rifle and Pistol Association are grateful for the court’s ruling and thoughtful consideration of California’s’ complex firearm laws.  

Please support CRPA’s ongoing courtroom fights to protect and expand Second Amendment rights in California by donating to the CRPA’s Litigation Victory Fund.

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