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California Assault Weapon Owners Face Legal Jeopardy After State Agency’s Website Crash

Dickson Phua / Flickr

Dickson Phua / Flickr

Second Amendment groups in California say a state website’s crash could turn thousands of gun owners into felons after they were blocked from registering their firearms ahead of a state imposed deadline.

The groups sued the California Department of Justice last week over the registration problem, saying their civil rights were violated.

A 2016 state law required owners of “bullet button” assault weapons to register by July 1. That type of weapon, which allow magazines to quickly disengage with the use of a small tool, was used in the 2015 San Bernardino mass shooting.

Brandon Combs, president of the Sacramento-based Firearms Policy Coalition, one of the groups supporting the lawsuit, said thousands of gun owners across the state could be affected.

“It’s very frustrating,” Combs told Capital Public Radio. “The state’s saying, ‘Well, we’re going to keep expanding these gun control laws and set up all of these hoops for gun owners to jump through. And if you don’t jump through them, you’re going to be a criminal.’ But then, at the same time, they don’t even make systems that work and allow people to comply with the law.”

The Department of Justice did not respond to requests for comment.

The Sacramento Bee reported nearly 5,000 applications to register these weapons had been filed by February, based on DOJ data. No current total was available.

Combs said the department has not offered to extend the registration deadline.

He added that gun owners who tried to comply, as well as those who were in the dark about the law, could face serious criminal charges.

“These things can cost tens of thousands, potentially over hundreds of thousands of dollars, to defend in court,” Combs said. “Just mere possession can be a felony. … Transportation could be a serious felony, years in prison.”

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