From the Firearms Policy Coalition
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Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC) announced a victory in its Campos v. Bonta lawsuit, which challenged policies and practices of California Attorney General Rob Bonta and his Department of Justice (DOJ) Bureau of Firearms that delayed firearm transactions beyond the statutory 10-day waiting period absent a legal basis. The order can be viewed at FPCLegal.org.
“Demand for firearms surged in 2020 when California citizens saw the rule of law crumbling around them. The California DOJ announced it was too busy to process background checks within 10 days, so it was going to start interpreting the law to give it 30 days. We brought this case to shine a light on the DOJ’s unlawful practice, and we are pleased the court has ordered DOJ to comply with the law,” stated Brad Benbrook, FPC’s counsel in the litigation.
When a person buys, transfers, or is loaned a firearm in California, they are generally required by law to wait 10 days after the DOJ receives the transfer application before taking possession of the firearm. Likewise, the firearms dealer cannot allow the person to take possession of the firearm before the end of the waiting period. But as soon as that 10-day period is over, California law says one of three things must happen:
- The dealer can deliver the firearm;
- The application is denied by DOJ; or,
- The transfer has been delayed for one of three specified, expressly enumerated causes, and the background check and waiting period can be extended up to a total of 30 days. This additional delay to the background check can only be used by the State under a limited set of circumstances. (Cal. Penal Code § 28220(f)(1).)
In order for the DOJ to delay a transfer to conduct additional research, it must have some substantial information from the background check conducted within the first 10 days that, because of something discovered in their records that meets at least one of the three statutorily established criteria. Despite all of this, in 2020, DOJ established a policy and practice where it would extend the 10-day waiting period to 30 days whenever the background check was not complete. FPC filed the Campos lawsuit in response.
“A plain reading of the statute’s language shows that the Legislature added the three specific circumstances for which the Department may delay releasing firearms when background checks are not completed,” wrote San Diego Superior Court Judge John S. Meyer in his Order. “Thus, contrary to respondents’ argument, these specified situations do not show the Legislature intended to provide the Department authority to delay release for any reason that background checks are not completed. Had the Legislature wished to create a broader allowance for a 30-day delay whenever the DOJ determined additional time is needed, it could have done so. It did not.”
On July 22, 2022, the Court granted FPC’s petition for writ of mandamus and ordered the DOJ to stop enforcing the delay policy and practice. The Court’s judgment reiterates that the DOJ must allow for delivery of firearms after conclusion of the 10-day waiting period unless it has identified one of the three bases for delay or already determined that the purchaser is ineligible.
The plaintiffs/petitioners were represented by Brad Benbrook and Steve Duvernay of the Benbrook Law Group, who have previously successfully represented FPC and individual gun owners in other legal cases.