first published on February 7, 2016 by Matt Silvey
As a gun enthusiast living in California, I can tell you that the gun laws in this state make no sense. As a cop who works in California, I will tell you that the gun laws make absolutely no sense. I can think of nothing that better exemplifies the baffling stupidity of California gun laws than a situation that just reared its head a few weeks ago, and continues to remain in SNAFU status.
First, a little background is necessary to understand just how insanely stupid this situation is.
Years ago, (effective January 1, 2001) California legislators enacted PC 12131 which established the “Safe Handgun Roster.” The stated justification behind this law was to get all those “unsafe Saturday night specials” off the streets, you know, because the guns were rampantly killing all sorts of people all on their own. Now, in order for licensed gun dealers to sell new handguns in this state, the gun would now need to be on an official list maintained by the California Department of Justice (DOJ), and that list is known as the “Safe Handgun Roster.” Since it is relevant to this article, please note that this law specifically exempts Law Enforcement.
In order for a gun to be on the list as a “safe” handgun, the manufacturer has to submit every model they want to sell in California to the state for drop safety testing. Since this is California, and the state wants to make it difficult for guns to be sold here (only logical explanation for this process), and it can’t hurt to make a little money in the process, in addition to submitting the actual guns for testing, there are fees associated with submitting the guns. Not only are those fees due at the time of testing, but the guns somehow magically become unsafe after 1 year and the manufacturers have to pay a renewal fee to keep the guns on the list.
By the way, “every model” is interpreted by California to include different calibers, different frame sizes, barrel lengths and even color changes. Every model that has a different part number, no matter what the reason, needs to be submitted. You know, because the trigger mechanism between a Gen 3 Glock 17 in FDE is different from a Gen 3 Glock 17 in black which is different from a Gen 3 Glock 23 in OD…. (just in case you don’t know, they all have the exact same trigger mechanism)
An excellent analysis of the “Safe Handgun” law can be found here, but it was written in 2009, and prior to the implementation of what I discuss in the next paragraph.
Then in 2007, as another barrier to gun manufacturers, which was fictitiously sold to the public as way to aid law enforcement in solving crimes, legislators passed AB 1471 which mandated that all semi-automatic pistols must employ microstamping technology. Since it is relevant to this article, please note that this new law also specifically exempts Law Enforcement. At the time the law was passed, the technology did not even exist, so it was put on hold until it could be developed. On May 17, 2013, California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced that microstamping had passed all legal and technical hurdles, and effective immediately, any new semi-auto pistols to be sold in the state would now have to employ microstamping technology. With this new requirement being essential to get new models added to the “Safe Handgun Roster,” the hurdles for gun manufacturers to get new guns added to the list became economically unfeasible.
California, just like many other states, has varying levels of law enforcement and a large number of agencies at both state and local levels. The California Penal Code defines all the various levels of law enforcement in sections 830.1, 830.2 and 830.3. Most of the state level agencies have specializations in which they generally deal. The California Alcoholic Beverage Control agency (ABC) is an agency that not only deals with licensing issues of both retailers and manufacturers, but they also conduct undercover buy operations in an attempt to close down businesses illegally selling alcohol to minors. They are covered under CA PC 830.2, the same section that covers the CA Highway Patrol. While they are not out handling calls for service like police officers, CHP and deputies do, they are indeed doing law enforcement work. I do not think anyone would try to argue they are not law enforcement officers.
Well, the ABC recently updated their issue weapon to Gen 4 Glock 19’s. Some of their agents wanted to purchase smaller guns, such as the Glock 26 and 43, for backup use. The dealership they ordered them through was later contacted by the California DOJ and told that they can no longer sell Gen 4 Glocks to the ABC or their employees because the Gen 4 Glock is not on the “Safe Handgun Roster.” Both the gun store and the ABC were stumped so they asked for clarification.
In response, the DOJ emailed the gun store the following memo. Yes, the PDF file the DOJ sent was actually a horribly scanned copy of a photocopy of a printed out version of the memo. Very professional I must say…
The pertinent portion of that memo, at least as far as this article is concerned, is the first section which the DOJ themselves titled “NON-ROSTER HANDGUNS (UNSAFE HANDGUNS).”
There are a great number of law enforcement agencies missing from that list, notably all probation departments, all park ranger departments (both local and state), and as far as this current situation concerns, the ABC is also not mentioned even though they are covered under the same penal code section as the CHP.
The DOJ has been contacted by the ABC and thus far, the DOJ is not budging. Prior to this attempted purchase, the DOJ and all dealers were working off an exemption the DOJ had granted to cover all law enforcement agencies, but now some bureaucrat somewhere has decided that exemption is no longer valid.
This situation brings up a number of issues that as a gun owner, a cop, and a halfway rational human being, all completely stump me.
1) If these guns are “UNSAFE HANDGUNS” like the DOJ seems to think they are, why on earth would any person in their right mind choose to carry them, let alone the heads of many law enforcement agencies, up to and including their tactical teams?
2) As many non-cop gun owners will likely point out, why are these guns okay for cops to carry by not okay for private citizens?
3) Why is the DOJ picking and choosing which law enforcement agencies can purchase off list guns? If up until now, all agencies were exempt, what suddenly changed to make only certain agencies are now?
Getting beyond the insanely stupid concept that the CA DOJ is currently preventing the CA ABC from purchasing guns for their cops, the whole entire issue of the “Safe Handgun List” is so ridiculously flawed, the whole damn thing should be thrown out. From a strictly logical standpoint, there is no possible way to justify it. But, since when do gun laws stem from logic?