Four gun-rights groups sued the state of California on Wednesday over the failed implementation of an online registration system they claim has left certain gun owners unable to comply with the state's new assault weapons restrictions through no fault of their own.
The Second Amendment Foundation, the Calguns Foundation, the Firearms Policy Coalition, and the Firearms Policy Foundation filed suit alongside three California citizens against the California Department of Justice and Attorney General Xavier Becerra. They claim that California's online gun registration system, the California Firearms Application Reporting System, has not worked properly since its inception and did not work at all in the lead up to the registration deadline set for certain rifles. Further, they claim that the state was aware of the problems with the system.
"We're suing because California DOJ’s Firearms Application Reporting System (CFARS) broke down during the deadline week for people to register their firearms in accordance with new state laws," Alan Gottlieb, Second Amendment Foundation founder, said. "For a whole week the system was largely inaccessible. People who wanted to comply with the law simply couldn’t and now they face becoming criminals because they couldn’t do what the law requires."
"It’s like a bad version of Catch-22," Gottlieb said. "The government required registration by the deadline, but the online registration failed, and people couldn’t register. They’re required to obey the law, but the system broke down, making it impossible to obey the law. Now these people face the possibility of being prosecuted. We simply cannot abide that kind of incompetence."
The plaintiffs said hundreds of thousands of gun owners could be affected by the registry failure and potentially turned into criminals. They are asking that Californians be allowed to register their eligible firearms without being held responsible for missing the deadline due to the registry malfunctions.
"Many people, including our clients, did everything they could to comply with the law and avoid criminal liability," George Lee, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said. "They used updated web browsers, hardware, different devices, and even did internet speed tests to make sure it wasn’t a problem on their end. The DOJ’s crashed system is a reflection of their cascading failures to build a system and allow people to register their guns before July 1 if that’s what they wanted to do."
"Attorney General Xavier Becerra seems to care about everything but the Constitution, the rule of law, and law-abiding California gun owners," Brandon Combs, Firearms Policy Coalition president, said. "If Becerra spent as much time doing his job as he does talking about his pet crusades against the federal government, hundreds of thousands of Californians would not be in legal jeopardy right now."
"Once again, the DOJ and Attorney General Becerra unlawfully and unconstitutionally moved the goal posts on peaceful, law-abiding gun owners," said Jonathan Jensen, vice president of the Firearms Policy Foundation. "Their failures should not result in people going to prison and losing their property."
Jennifer Molina, a California DOJ spokesperson, said "the California Department of Justice has not been served" when asked for comment on the suit.
Gottlieb said the defendants will be served in the near future.
"A.G. Becerra, Acting Chief Orick, and DOJ will be served very soon. But, at this point, they very clearly know about it," he told the Free Beacon. "Californians who tried to register their firearms as 'assault weapons' before July 1 but were unable to should contact the Legal Action Hotline immediately at https://www.firearmspolicy.org/hotline, email@example.com, or by telephone at 855-252-4510(24/7/365)."
UPDATE July 13, 4:08 P.M.: This piece has been updated to include comment from the California DOJ.