Holiday DOJ Website Failure Halts Thousands of Firearm Shipments Into California on Eve of Annual Trade Show

A crashed California Department of Justice (DOJ) website during the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday prevented the shipment of thousands of firearms to retailers in California, and cost legitimate businesses tens of thousands of dollars in delayed or lost sales.

California has some of the most restrictive firearm laws in the country. One of those laws creates the California Firearms Licensee Check Program (CFLC). It was the inability to comply with the CFLC, due to the DOJ website crashing, that caused the whole problem here.

Firearm dealers must be a Federal Firearm Licensee (FFL) in addition to having state and local licenses. In order for California FFLs to receive firearms shipped from other FFLs they must be enrolled on California’s Centralized List of Firearm Dealers. Enrollment confirms that the FFL also has a valid California firearm dealer’s license.

FFLs often do business with each other. Before an FFL, either in California or in another state, can ship firearms to a California FFL, it must first access the CLFC website and obtain a verification approval number. This number comes in the form of a Firearm Shipment Verification Approval Letter, which also states that the intended recipient FFL is properly licensed and listed amongst those authorized to receive firearm shipments (i.e., on the Centralized List of Firearm Dealers). Failure to obtain a Firearm Shipment Verification Approval Letter prior to shipping firearms to a California FFL is a crime.

There are no exceptions to this requirement. An FFL must obtain an approval number before sending firearms to a California FFL, and the number must be referenced on the shipment. Therefore, if an FFL cannot access the CLFC website or California DOJ personnel to get a CFLC shipping number, it cannot ship firearms into or within California.

Since the DOJ website crash meant FFLs could not access the CFLC system, shipping numbers could not be obtained, and all firearm shipments into California had to be halted.

Compounding the problems caused by this most recent CFLC outage was its occurring on the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend, which also happened to be the eve of one of the largest firearm trade shows of the year – the Shooting, Hunting, and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show.

SHOT Show is held annually, this year in Las Vegas. The outage lasted through the weekend and continued until approximately 10 a.m. Pacific on Tuesday, the first day of SHOT Show. Being the weekend and Monday-holiday, no customer service or DOJ personnel were available to correct the problem. So hundreds of California FFLs wishing to have SHOT show exhibitors/manufacturers begin the process of sending firearms to their California store couldn’t make shipping arrangements. And wholesalers throughout the country couldn’t ship any firearms to California FFLs either.

An FFL shipping firearms must access the CLFC system for each shipment sent to a California FFL. If the FFL accesses CFLC to ship firearms to a California FFL on Monday, they have to access the system again to send an additional shipment of firearms to the same California dealer on Tuesday. For importers, manufacturers, distributors, and dealers doing a large amount of business with California, these requirements are unnecessarily redundant and onerous.

This California law also essentially duplicates a requirement already existing under federal law, which requires the shipping FFL to confirm the recipient of the firearms is a valid FFL and to obtain a certified copy of the recipient’s federal license before the firearms are shipped. This makes California’s CLFC requirements doubly redundant.

A number of out-of-state dealers refuse to send firearms into California based on California’s byzantine and often nonsensical laws, including the CLFC requirement.

 The CLFC outage draws attention to the problems with California’s redundant and unnecessary firearm laws. The outage, due to the pointless requirements of the CLFC system, prevented lawful firearms from being sent to California FFLs from lawful sources, causing a significant loss of revenue for the state of California.

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