- State imposed registration demand, but failed to provide system that worked
A federal judge has rejected the state of California’s request to dismiss a lawsuit by gun owners against an online firearms-registration program that did not function.
WND reported last year the state created website but didn’t ensure it was operational.
At the time, lawyers for the Second Amendment Foundation and three other advocacy groups filed an amended complaint against state Attorney General Xavier Becerra asking a judge to halt California’s enforcement of a new law restricting possession of so-called “bullet button assault weapons” because the registration system did not function.
Calguns Foundation, Firearms Policy Coalition, Firearms Policy Foundation and seven individuals joined SAF in the suit.
The complaint said “many users who were able to initially log in and begin the process could not finish because the system crashed, obliterating all of their work.”
The problems are traceable to the state’s decision to underfund and understaff the program.
U.S. District Judge Morrison England Jr. ruled against the state’s attempt to dismiss the case.
“The Supreme Court specifically recognized that a violation of procedural due process occurs when ‘it is the state system itself that destroys a complainant’s property interest, by operation of law,’ whether the state’s action ‘is taken through negligence, maliciousness or otherwise,’” he ruled.
SAF founder Alan M. Gottlieb said the state’s system “was like a bad version of ‘Catch-22.’”
“The government required registration by a certain deadline, but the online registration failed and people couldn’t register,” he said. “It’s simply not acceptable when the government mandates something and then doesn’t provide the tools for the public to comply, making them criminally liable and subject to firearms confiscation.”
The judge noted the state was blaming gun owners for its own failure.
“While defendants appear to blame the individual plaintiffs for waiting until the last minute to attempt to register their firearms (seven waited until the last two days of the online registration period), the fact that defendants’ website used a dramatic ‘countdown clock’ showing the number of weeks, days, hours, minutes and seconds elapsing until the deadline at least arguably supported a belief that registrations could be both processed and accepted ‘until literally the last second of the registration period.’ Particularly when coupled with the documented systemic failures outlined above, the countdown clock also supports an inference of deliberate indifference,” he said.
Firearms Policy Coalition President Brandon Combs said Becerra and his agency “had one job to do: Provide a functional system for gun owners to use in registering their eligible firearms.”
“But instead of doing their jobs, they created a huge new mess for law enforcement and put innocent people and lawfully-owned property at serious risk,” he said.
Gottlieb explained that those who wanted to follow the state requirements simply couldn’t.
Guns.com reported three gun owners each tried “for weeks” to comply with the state’s demands through its own system.
The complaint said Becerra’s office knew for months the site was essentially nonfunctioning and the staff was underfunded.
Guns.com said that one owner, for example, “documented 50 attempts which either timed out or froze up without completing while multiple calls to technical support only met with automated instructions on how to clear browser settings and delete cookies.”
“Many people, including our clients, did everything they could to comply with the law and avoid criminal liability,” said George M. Lee, a lawyer on the case. “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.”