June 18th, 2008

New California Law Restricts FFL to FFL Gun Shipments Starting July 1st

This is important news for wholesalers, gunsmiths, and FFLs who ship firearms to California. Starting July 1st, 2008, FFLs wishing to send a firearm to a California FFL must first register with the California Dept. of Justice (CA DOJ), submit the details of the transaction(s), and then wait for the CA DOJ to issue a “Firearms Shipment Approval” letter. The letter must be enclosed within the gun shipment and the receiving FFL in California must retain the letter for three (3) years. Curios and relics are exempt, but otherwise this applies to all firearms — handguns, rifles, and shotguns.

To obtain approval, the shipping FFL must have the California FFL’s five-digit Centralized List number and fill out an application and provide the invoice number and quantity of long guns and handguns to be shipped. The application process will be available to FFLs online and via facsimile or telephone once the FFL is enrolled in the CFLC program. NOTE: This law only imposes burdens on FFLs. It is still legal for a private party in another state to ship a gun to a California FFL-holder (if the shipper otherwise complies with Federal law).

Bad Law Applies Even to Intra-State Shipments
The Democrat-controlled California Legislature has produced some bad gun laws before, but this is one of the worst ever. It is extremely burdensome. An FFL wishing to ship guns to California must obtain an approval letter with EVERY shipment. This law even applies to a California-based FFL wishing to ship in-state to another California FFL. The new regulations are administered as the “California Firearms Licensee Check System (CFLC)“, authorized by AB 2521, a terrible piece of legislation signed into law by Gov. Schwarzenegger in 2006.

CA DOJ’s official summary of the CFLC system:

“As of July 1, 2008, California Penal Code Section 12072(f)(1) prohibits all Federal Firearms Licensees (FFLs), other than Type 03 or 06 FFLs, from shipping firearms to an FFL in California unless, prior to delivery, the FFL intending to deliver, sell or transfer the firearms obtains a verification approval number from the California Department of Justice (CADOJ) Bureau of Firearms. This includes transfers that occur at gun shows.

The verification approval number, which the Bureau of Firearms provides in a Firearms Shipment Approval letter, confirms that the intended recipient of the firearm shipment is properly licensed and listed in the state’s database of persons/entities authorized to receive firearm shipments. If the intended CA FFL recipient is not listed in the state’s database, the transaction will result in a Do Not Ship letter, and it is a crime for the intended recipient to receive the firearms (Penal Code Section 12083(c)(1)).

As a courtesy to impacted FFLs, the Bureau of Firearms has established an Internet application that is available to FFLs nationwide 24 hours a day 7 days a week (24/7) to obtain Firearms Shipment Approval letters. All Internet transactions will be handled on a secure server, and the information provided will be used solely for the purposes associated with the administration of the CFLC program. For FFLs that do not have Internet access, the Bureau has established a telephone service that allows nationwide FFL shippers to enroll and obtain Firearms Shipment Approval letters via telephone or facsimile prior to shipping firearms to a California FFL. However, the telephone service availability will be limited to Monday through Friday 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Pacific Standard Time.

California FFL holders (other than Type 03 or 06) must enroll in the California Firearms Licensee Check (CFLC) Program to ship firearms to another California FFL. They must also be listed on the State of California Centralized List as either a dealer, manufacturer, or exempt. Once enrolled in CFLC, California FFLs will be able to obtain Firearms Shipment Approval letters to ship firearms to other FFL holders within the state.

For additional information regarding this new program, please refer to our CFLC Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).”


New System Imposes Useless Red Tape
The author of AB 2521, CA Assemblyman Dave Jones, claims the new system is designed to “protect the consumer” by ensuring gun shipments are not sent to recipients whose Federal Licenses are not in good standing. That, of course is nonsense. Current Federal law already requires a shipping FFL to confirm that the shipment’s recipient has a valid license. No, the real purpose of the new law is to impose a wall of red tape blocking gun shipments to California. The new law has already had a chilling effect. We’ve seen notices on gun auction boards from dealers stating: “Due to new regulations, we will NOT ship this firearm to California.”

New Law Needs to Be Challenged
On its face, California’s new Approval Letter System probably cannot withstand legal scrutiny if it is challenged in court. First, insofar as it regulates and changes the record-keeping duties of Federal Firearms License holders, the CFLC should be 100% pre-empted by Federal Law. California is adding an additional layer of duties and responsiblities on FFLs in OTHER STATES, and then imposing criminal penalties if California’s new rules aren’t followed to the letter. Avoiding this kind of mess is precisely why we have uniform federal regulation in the first place. In addition, the California law may be Constitutionally invalid as a restraint on interstate commerce. We hope the NRA or NSSF immediately challenges California’s Firearms Licensee Check System.

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