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California: NRA & CRPA Oppose Expansion of Los Angeles Gun Purchaser Warning Letter Program and Fee to Be Charged To Firearm Dealers

Friday, February 11, 2011

On February 4, 2011, lawyers for the National Rifle Association (NRA) and California Rifle & Pistol Association (CRPA) submitted an opposition letter to the Los Angeles City Council's proposed expansion of the City's gun purchaser warning letter program (hereafter, "the Program"). CLICK HERE TO SEE A COPY OF THE OPPOSITION LETTER.

The City's Program originally consisted of sending the so-called "warning letters" to new gun buyers who resided in specific neighborhoods in the City. Gun buyers in the targeted areas received the letter from the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office. It was signed by the City Attorney, Attorney General of California, and Los Angeles Chief of Police and indicated that the gun purchase had been documented. The letter also stated that the new gun buyer might be prosecuted if he or she transferred the gun without completing a "Dealer Record of Sale" (DROS) form, and the gun was subsequently used in a crime. CLICK HERE TO SEE A COPY OF THE WARNING LETTER. The letters typically arrived a few days into the ten day waiting period on a firearm purchase, and scared some legitimate customers away from completing the sale and picking up the firearm at the end of the waiting period.

There are several problems with the letter Program, and particularly with the Public Safety Committee's proposal to expand it. The letter does not reflect the exceptions in the law that allow some firearm transfers to legally take place without going through a licensed firearm retailer, so it is inaccurate and misleading. And now the City wants to force the few remaining gun dealers in Los Angeles to pay for the City's Program.

The Program began in 2001 as part of a RAND Corporation study and was suspended in 2008 purportedly so that the RAND Corporation could study and report on its effectiveness, although funding may have been a part of the problem. SEE THE RAND REPORT. The researchers subsequently found that the warning letters appeared to have no effect on the legal transfer rate, nor on the short-term rate of guns subsequently turning up in a crime. A 2010 report by the original researchers involved in the RAND study indicates that while the study found that people who received the letter were more likely to report their gun stolen than those who did not receive the letter, they were unable to determine whether the guns reported as stolen were actually stolen, or were merely reported stolen in an attempt to break the gun's paper trail. SEE THE 2010 REPORT.

The Program was raised again on October 5, 2010 by City Council President Eric Garcetti and Council Member Bernard Parks. The Garcetti-Parks motion (Council File 10-1524) seeks to reinstate the Program, and to expand it citywide. The item was transferred to the Public Safety Committee, and discussed at the November 15, 2010 Public Safety Committee meeting. At that time the Committee discussed its desire to reinstate and expand the Program citywide, instead of just targeting specific neighborhoods as the program did previously. But the City does not have enough money for the Program, which a representative from the City Attorney's Office estimated would cost approximately $100,000 annually. The Committee noted that there are only about twelve firearm dealers within the City, and it discussed either requiring firearm dealers to hand out the warning letters to buyers at the time of purchase, and/or making firearm dealers shoulder the cost of the Program if funding cannot be found by the City.

The Public Safety committee continued the agenda item for 60 days to wait for a report back from the City Attorney and Administrative Officer on the feasibility and legality of forcing firearm dealers to fund the Program. The City Attorney report is not yet available.

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