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DOJ Launches Online Firearm Ownership Reporting System 

May 13, 2016

The California Department of Justice (DOJ) recently launched the California Reporting Information System (CRIS). CRIS is a web-based application that allows gun owners to report their firearm-related transactions to the DOJ. The DOJ touts that this system is a step toward streamlining processes to save gun owners time by reporting firearm transactions online instead of mailing in written forms.

Of course, this new system will save the DOJ time in processing these forms and make it more convenient for gun owners to report firearm transactions. However, using this new system comes at a steep cost to the privacy of gun owners. In order to gain access to CRIS, gun owners are required to provide an awful lot of personal information to the DOJ. For example, gun owners are required to provide residential address, email address, and California driver’s license or California identification number just to register with the system.

But aside from these privacy issues, the DOJ has never had a good track record relating to the processing of forms. If you have had the unfortunate experience of having to fill out a form and send it through the mail to the DOJ, you know that there is a lot of frustration and delays associated with this process. Hopefully, the new system will reduce these delays. But given the DOJ’s prior record with internet services, I wouldn’t hold my breath.
Currently, people can submit seven different reports through CRIS:

  1. Firearm Ownership Report;
  2. New Residential Report of Firearm Ownership;
  3. Collector In-State Acquisition of Curio or Relic Long Gun Report;
  4. Curio or Relic Firearm Report;
  5. Report of Operation of Law;
  6. Report of Intra-Familial Firearm Transaction; and
  7. Law Enforcement Gun Release Application.

Each of these reports, and what they are used for, is discussed in further detail below.

I. Firearm Ownership Report

The Firearm Ownership Report allows you to voluntarily report ownership of (i.e., register) a firearm with the DOJ. This form is most often used by firearm owners to register firearms they acquired years ago that are not currently registered to them. While registration is not required, some owners prefer registering their firearms for ease of retrieval in the happenstance that the firearms are lost/stolen or seized by law enforcement, or so that any future firearm-related offenses may be less serious. Significantly, this report is not available to those who are required by law to report their ownership or acquisition of a firearm, or to those who are exempt from the requirement of conducting a transfer through a licensed firearms dealer. See Cal. Penal Code § 28000.

The Firearm Ownership Report should never be used in lieu of, or to circumvent, California’s requirements relating to firearm transactions, especially the requirement that most firearm transactions must be conducted through (and recorded by) a licensed firearm dealer. This form also cannot be used to register an unregistered “assault weapons” or “.50 BMG” rifles.

II. New Resident Report Of Firearm Ownership

A New Resident Report of Firearm Ownership must be submitted when someone moves into California with a firearm acquired from out of state. By law, this report must be submitted within sixty (60) days of bringing the firearm into California. See Cal. Penal Code §§ 17000, 27560.

III.Collector In-State Acquisition Of Curio Or Relic Long Gun Report

The Collector In-State Acquisition of Curio or Relic Long Gun Report allows a resident of California who has been issued a Collector of Curios or Relics Federal Firearms License (often referred to as a 03 FFL) and a valid Certificate of Eligibility (COE), to report their acquisition of curio or relic long guns from non-licensees without completing the firearm transfer through a licensed firearms dealer. This form must be submitted within thirty (30) days of taking possession of the long gun. See Cal. Penal Code §§ 27545, 27966.

IV. Curio Or Relic Firearm Report  

By using the Curio or Relic Firearm Report a California resident who possesses a Collector of Curios and Relics Federal Firearms License (03 FFL) and valid Certificate of Eligibility (COE) may acquire a curio or relic firearm while outside of California and can transport the firearm back into California. This form must be submitted within five (5) days of transporting the firearm into California. See Cal. Penal Code §§ 27585, 27565.

V. Report Of Transfer By Operation Of Law

The Report of Transfer by Operation of Law is available to people who want to take title or possession of a firearm by “operation of law” without going through a licensed firearms dealer. There are a number of ways a person may acquire a firearm by “operation of law.” These are discussed in California Penal Code section 16990 and include levying officers, receivers performing the functions of a receiver, trustees, assignees for the benefit of creditors, etc.

The most common use of this form is for spouses. Under California law, spouses may give each other firearms, by a process called “transmutation.” Presumably, by using this form spouses can jointly register firearms in the names of both spouses. This form must be submitted within thirty (30) days of taking possession of the firearm. See Cal. Penal Code §§ 27545, 27920.

VI. Report Of Intra-Familial Firearm Transaction

The Report of Intra-Familial Firearm Transaction is used by family members if, both reside in California, who would like to claim title or possession of a firearm by gift, bequest, and intestate succession or by any other means from an immediate family member. An “immediate family member” is defined in California Penal Code section 16720 for purposes of this exemption as a parent, grandparent, child or grandchild. This form must be submitted within thirty (30) days of the transfer. The receiving family member must have a valid Firearm Safety Certificate, or, in the case of a handgun, a valid unexpired Handgun Safety Certificate. See Cal. Penal Code § 27875.

VII. Law Enforcement Gun Release Application

This is the application you have to submit in order to recover any firearm that is in the custody of a court or law enforcement agency. Once you submit your application, the DOJ will make a determination as to whether you are eligible to possess the firearm. See Cal. Penal Code § 33850.

Want to Know More? 

For further information and explanations of these processes and forms see C.D. Michel’s book, California Gun Laws: A Guide to State and Federal Firearm Regulations (3rd Ed. 2015), available here.

The California Department of Justice (DOJ) recently launched the California Reporting Information System (CRIS). CRIS is a web-based application that allows gun owners to report their firearm-related transactions to the DOJ. The DOJ touts that this system is a step toward streamlining processes to save gun owners time by reporting firearm transactions online instead of mailing in written forms.

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