Friday, 18 November 2016

Transfer of Out-of-State Firearms to California

California allows its residents to purchase and own firearms. It also permits them to purchase firearms outside the state. Even so, transfer of firearms purchased from other U.S States into California is now tightly regulated. Interstate transfer of firearms is regulated by gun transfer laws and firearms statues. Regulation is necessary because such firearms, if unregistered, can be used to commit crime in California and the law enforcement agencies will find it difficult to trace the firearm to the person who committed the crime. Therefore, the laws and statutes are meant to preserve the capacity for traceability and culpability during investigations, as well as ensure proper registration of firearms.
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How to Transfer Firearm to California from Outside the State
There are different legal guides that regulate the purchase of different types of firearms from outside California and their subsequent transfer to California. Basically, these laws can be broadly categorized into federal law and state law; and there is a nuanced - but exceedingly important - difference between the two as will be explained later.
1.      Federal Law
Federal statues allow firearms dealers to sell guns across state borders. However, once an out-of-state resident makes a purchase, federal law stipulates that the dealer must transfer the gun to the new owner through a licensed dealer in California. The California-based licensed dealer then completes the transaction with the soon-to-be gun owner. In this transaction, the California-based licensed firearms dealer is described as the recipient dealer, while the soon-to-be gun owner is the purchaser.
The recipient dealer is obliged by federal law to then complete the transaction according to California state law. This requires the dealer to honor the 10-day waiting period, as well as perform a background check of the purchaser, and also verify that the purchaser is licensed to own a firearm. The recipient dealer is also expected to ascertain that the purchaser has a valid handgun safety certificate.
On the other hand, licensed gun dealers and firearms manufacturers are exempted from observing these aspects of federal law, and they can therefore easily conduct interstate firearms transfer. Even so, the transfer of firearms between licensed gun dealers located in different states is subject to the provisions of the Firearms Shipment Approval.
2.      State Law
Enforcement of federal laws has been lax. Therefore, in January 2015, California enacted a new state law that supplants the federal law in matters pertaining to interstate transfer of guns. The law, stipulated under Penal Code Section 27585, prohibits Californians from directly transferring, or shipping, into California firearms purchased or acquired outside the state. Like the federal law, it requires an out-of-state firearms dealer to transfer the purchased firearm to a licensed dealer in California. The gun dealers must still adhere to the clauses of firearms shipment approval. The California-based licensed dealer is then expected to conduct the remaining transaction as an ordinary in-state transaction.
State law also requires the recipient dealer to perform the necessary checks as specified by the California Firearms Licensee Check program. This allows the recipient dealer to ascertain that the purchaser is permitted to own and use firearms. This also ensures that the transaction is CA compliant.
Just like federal law, state law also exempts firearm dealers (both wholesalers and retailers) and gun manufacturers from adhering to its provisions. Gun collectors, importers and military personnel are also exempted.
Dissimilarity
State law differs from federal law in one key area; temporary use of loaned firearms. While federal law permits interstate transfer of loaned or rented sporting firearms for temporary use, the state law strictly prohibits the direct transfer of guns from outside the state, even if the gun has been loaned or rented to a Californian for sporting purposes for a short period of time.
Responsibility for Firearms Transfer
The out-of-state firearms dealer is responsible for transporting the purchased gun to a licensed gun dealer in California. Long guns including shotguns and rifles can be shipped through a contract carrier such as UPS, USPS (United States Postal Service), and Federal Express. At present, USPS cannot ship handguns.
Penalties
The aforementioned state law stipulates several penalties for those who do not comply with its provisions. If a Californian illegally acquires an out-of-state handgun, the offense is regarded as a felony or misdemeanor, and the prosecution is at liberty to choose whether to charge the person for either felony or misdemeanor. Misdemeanor is punished by a jail term not lasting more than 12 months in county jail, while a felony is punished by a jail term not exceeding 36 months in state prison. For other types of firearms, the offense is considered as a misdemeanor.
It is therefore prudent to ensure that the entire process of acquisition of an out-of-state firearm is CA compliant. Still, CA DOJ may be contacted at their general number of (916) 227-7527 in Sacramento for guidance in these matters.

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