Friday, November 1, 2013
Buying Guns From Unlicensed Seller Is a Crime, A.G. Says
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
Both the buyer and the seller of a firearm are guilty of a crime if the seller lacks a dealer’s license, state Attorney General Kamala Harris has opined.
In an opinion issued Tuesday in response to the request of Santa Cruz County District Attorney Bob Lee, the attorney general said Penal Code Sec. 27545 applies to both the buyer and seller.
The statute says:
“Where neither party to [a firearms] transaction holds a dealer’s license . . . the parties to the transaction shall complete the sale, loan, or transfer of that firearm through a licensed firearms dealer . . . .” A firearms transaction includes the sale, loan, or transfer of a firearm, the attorney general explained, and Penal Code section 27590 makes engaging in an unlicensed firearm transfer a “wobbler” offense.
The statutory language unambiguously applies to both sides of the transaction, the attorney general said.
“If the Legislature had intended to subject only the transferor to liability, there would have been no reason for it to use the plural term ‘parties’ in describing who “shall” complete the transaction “through a licensed firearms dealer,” she reasoned.
A legislative committee analysis confirms the intent, Harris added.
“In the minds of persons familiar with firearms laws, it is clear that both parties to a private transaction that is not brokered through a dealer or a local law enforcement agency, both persons commit a violation for doing so,” the Assembly Committee on Public Safety explained. “DOJ wants to make this crystal clear through grammatical changes.”
The opinion was prepared by Deputy Attorney General Marc J. Nolan.
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