- LOS ANGELES JUDGE PERMITS $30 MILLION LAWSUIT TO PROCEED AGAINST CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
LOS ANGELES, CA (June 11, 2021) — Today, Franklin Armory, Inc. and the California Rifle and Pistol Association announce that Honorable James Chalfant, Judge in the Superior Court of California for the County of Los Angeles, recently ruled that the petitioners in Franklin Armory, et al. v. California Department of Justice, et. al. may proceed on their writ of mandate against the Department of Justice. The lawsuit, filed by Franklin Armory, Inc. and the California Rifle and Pistol Association on May 27, 2020, alleges causes of action for, among other things: declaratory relief, traditional mandamus, and violation of public policy for the actions taken by the Department of Justice and their representatives to block the sale and acquisition of lawful firearms, including the Franklin Armory Title 1. The remaining actions, including those actions seeking damages over $30 million, have been deferred until after these initial claims have been heard.
The lawsuit alleges that, as of January 1, 2003, licensed firearm dealers in California are required to submit all background checks to DOJ electronically via the Dealer Record of Sale Entry System (“DES”). The DES is a web-based application designed, developed, and maintained by DOJ and used by firearm dealers to report the required information.
The lawsuit further alleges that many firearms do not qualify as handguns, pistols, revolvers, rifles, or shotguns, or even “frames” or “receivers” for said firearms. And, because of limitations placed upon the DES by the Department of Justice, dealers cannot accurately submit the required information through the DES for “long guns” that are undefined firearm subtypes, and they are prohibited from processing and accepting applications from purchasers of said firearms. The Department of Justice has long known about the DES’ deficiencies and has refused requests to correct it.
“Who knows how many countless owners and sellers were denied proper access to the Department’s transfer system but didn’t have the money, time, or fortitude to pursue enforcement on an individual firearm by firearm basis” said Chuck Michel, counsel for the California Rifle and Pistol Association.
In the Court’s June 3, 2021 ruling on demurrer, the court stated that:
As far as mandatory administrative duty, I think the Penal Code is relatively plain that the Department of Justice have [sic] to create an electronic transfer record or some other form of transfer record … which is required under Penal Code section 28160 for all firearms.
[A] lawful weapon has to be subject to transfer somehow. The D.O.J. … has the right to exercise discretion as to how that occurs, but it cannot prevent lawful weapons from being transferred, which is what the Second Amended Complaint alleges it’s doing and doing so as an underground regulation.
“This is the first step in vindicating the rights of our customers and our rights to sell lawful firearms without arbitrary and politically motivated interference from those who are charged as gate keepers of our fundamental rights,” said Jay Jacobson of Franklin Armory. “It is sad, however, that such a clear duty on the Department of Justice requires a lawsuit to enforce.”
Significantly, the lawsuit alleges that the motivation in delaying corrections to the DES was to buy time to work with the Legislature to develop legislation designating Franklin Armory Title 1 style firearms as “assault weapons” and restricting their sale. The scheme proved successful because on August 6, 2020, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 118 (“SB 118”), expanding the statutory definition of “assault weapon” to include any “semiautomatic centerfire firearm that is not a rifle, pistol, or shotgun, that does not have a fixed magazine, but that has any of a list of enumerated characteristics, like a forward pistol grip or thumbhole stock.” The effect of this scheme was to restrict Franklin Armory’s transfer of tens of thousands of centerfire versions of FAI Title 1 firearms to customers who had existing orders that long predated SB 118.
“The scope of the Department’s actions has affected thousands of buyers and caused more than $30 million in damages.” Michel continued, “it is our hope to ensure that the Department of Justice is held accountable and that such barriers to the acquisition of lawful firearms are forever removed.”
The Department of Justice now must answer the petition and the case will at last move on to the next stage of litigation. Though this case is far from over, both Franklin Armory and the California Rifle and Pistol Association are grateful for the court’s ruling and consideration of California’s complex firearm laws.
Source: Franklin Armory