Gun-Rights Groups File Suit Against New California Assault Weapons Regulations

'The state's relentless effort to crush the rights of law-abiding gun owners has gotten completely out of hand'

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December 2, 2017

A number of gun-rights groups joined forces to file a lawsuit against California's latest assault weapons regulations on Thursday.

The Second Amendment Foundation, Calguns Foundation, Firearms Policy Coalition, and Firearms Policy Foundation joined with a number of individual California residents to sue the state's attorney general. The suit, Holt et. al. v. Becerra et. al., alleged the way California's Department of Justice implemented new gun regulations was unlawful. It said the process by which the department broadened the definition of what the state considers an illegal "assault weapon" sought to avoid a mandated public comment period in a way that renders the underlying regulations unenforceable.

"The Department of Justice has pushed through a broad set of 'assault weapons' regulations through the state Office of Administrative Law without any oversight or public input," the Second Amendment Foundation said in a release. "As a result, the state DOJ has essentially revamped California's regulatory scheme."

Alan Gottlieb, the group's founder, said the lawsuit was necessary to protect the rights of gun-owning Californians from bureaucratic overreach.

"The state's relentless effort to crush the rights of law-abiding gun owners has gotten completely out of hand," Gottlieb said. "In this particular case, the new regulations not only exceed the scope of the law, they are in conflict with the law, and are contradictory in some cases. It amounts to an illegal regulatory scheme that should not be allowed to go forward. The government agencies responsible for enforcing the law must also follow the law. This case is an important step in protecting millions of law-abiding gun owners from an out-of-control regulatory state."

The individual plaintiffs in the case—George Holt, Irvin Hoff, Michael Louie, and Rick Russell—said the firearms they lawfully purchased before the regulations in question would be subject to either a burdensome new registration process or effectively outlawed. They argue the regulations created by the DOJ would make them subject to potential criminal prosecution that wouldn't otherwise exist under California law.

"By making and enforcing unlawful rules, and going around the rules to do it, the DOJ is putting tens if not hundreds of thousands of law-abiding people at risk of serious criminal liability," said plaintiffs' attorney George M. Lee. "This case seeks to make the DOJ follow the same laws they impose on others and protect law-abiding gun owners in the process."

The California gun-rights groups attached to the case argued the DOJ was working in bad faith and needed to be challenged in court.

"The DOJ has used every trick in the book to avoid good faith rulemaking action, and we cannot allow that to go unchallenged," Gene Hoffman, chairman of the Calguns Foundation, said. "California laws are bad enough without piling on unlawful and harmful regulations, so we seek here to restore the rule of law—and some sanity."

Firearms Policy Coalition president Brandon Combs called the state's gun-control policies "bipolar."

"On one hand, the State is requiring people to register virtually all of their guns," Combs said. "On the other hand, the DOJ is doing everything it can to suppress compliance and prevent people from registering their guns."

Firearms Policy Foundation vice president Jonathan Jensen warned many law-abiding Californians could be arrested if the regulations are allowed to stand.

"The DOJ is playing a dangerous game with the law, and it needs to stop," Jensen said. "Tens of thousands of people could face potential felonies in just a handful of months, and meanwhile the DOJ has moved the goalposts with the registration clock ticking."