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Firearm Proponents Sue California AG Over Firearm Transfer Delays

Handguns are displayed at a trade show in Las Vegas in this undated file photo.

Photo by John Locher AP

Above: Handguns are displayed at a trade show in Las Vegas in this undated file photo.

A coalition of firearm proponents, including licensed San Diego-area gun dealers, announced a lawsuit Thursday against California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and the state Department of Justice, alleging it unlawfully extended firearm waiting periods from 10 days to up to 30 days.

The lawsuit alleges that Becerra's Bureau of Firearms began delaying waiting periods on background checks for prospective firearm purchasers in April, due to apparent staffing reductions stemming from the coronavirus pandemic. The practice delayed "tens of thousands" of transactions across the state, in violation of state law, the plaintiffs allege.

Becerra's office could not immediately be reached for comment regarding the lawsuit, though the state Department of Justice has previously stated that California law does allow it to take up to 30 days to complete background checks.

A statement on the Bureau of Firearms website reads, "COVID-19 protective measures have impacted the ability to increase the personnel resources in the DROS unit to address the recent sustained increase in firearms and ammunition transactions without compromising the health and safety of our employees and the community. As a result, firearms and ammunition dealers and purchasers should know that as DOJ employees continue to perform the statutorily required background checks throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, circumstances may compel that background checks are completed after the expiration of the 10-day waiting period for firearms purchases. DOJ will continue to strive to provide the best service and complete these checks in the shortest time possible."

Local plaintiffs include Firearms Unknown in National City, Poway Weapons & Gear, the political action committee San Diego County Gun Owners, and individual gun owners hailing from San Diego County. Other plaintiffs include the Firearms Policy Coalition, Second Amendment Foundation and the California Gun Rights Foundation.

Plaintiffs' counsel Brad Benbrook said, "This case was filed to require the Department of Justice to comply with the state's laws. Those laws provide that background checks must occur within 10 days and may only be delayed in specific circumstances where a background check reveals that a purchaser may not be eligible to possess a firearm. There is no administrative burden exception that allows the Department of Justice to bend the law. Rather, it should have figured out a way to organize its staff to comply with the law."

Adam Kraut, the Firearms Policy Coalition's director of legal strategy, said, "In a time of increasing unrest, Attorney General Becerra and his Department of Justice unlawfully abused their authority to unilaterally change California's gun laws for the worse. Becerra and his regulators cannot change the laws to suit their policy preferences and convenience. The law is clear and the state must follow its own rules."

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