Sen. Skinner Introduces Bill to Prevent Police Officers from Purchasing Illegal Guns for their Personal Use or Resale
State Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, today introduced SB 377, which would close a loophole that allows California law enforcement officers to buy illegal handguns for their personal use or to resell them.
“California has outlawed the purchase of certain handguns that have been deemed unsafe or illegal by the California Department of Justice. There’s no good reason to allow an exception when we know these weapons are unsafe. SB 377 closes the loophole that now allows law enforcement to buy these illegal guns,” Sen. Skinner said. “Law enforcement officers are not allowed to purchase other illegal products in the state. Guns should be no different.”
In order to address gun violence and the growing threat of mass shootings, California has enacted some of the toughest gun laws in the nation during the past few decades. And those laws work. According to the CDC, California now has one of the lowest firearm mortality rates in the nation.
California’s gun laws include bans on the sale of many types of dangerous handguns. The California Department of Justice maintains a roster of handguns that it has certified as being legal to sell and purchase in the state because the guns meet the state’s strict safety standards. Handguns not certified by DOJ’s list are known as “off roster,” and are unlawful to purchase or sell in California.
However, there’s a loophole in California’s illegal firearms law — law enforcement officers are exempted and allowed to buy off-roster guns for their personal use. Included in this loophole are officers who work for police agencies, sheriff’s offices, and those employed by a wide-range of other public agencies, including the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Parks and Recreation Department, Fish and Wildlife, county welfare fraud investigators, and college campus and K-12 school police.
In recent years, there have been high-profile scandals involving California officers who purchased off-roster firearms and then sold them, effectively becoming illegal arms dealers. Incidents like this led the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to issue a bulletin to California law enforcement agencies warning about the growing trend of law enforcement officers engaging in the business of unlicensed firearms sales.
Current state law additionally does not require law enforcement officers to wait 10 days — like all other Californians — to purchase legal handguns. SB 377 would also close this loophole and require officers to undergo the 10-day waiting period just like everyone else.
SB 377 would not impact the portion of California law that enables law enforcement agencies to purchase off-roster firearms for official use by officers at work. However, Sen. Skinner intends to add a provision to SB 377 that would bar law enforcement agencies from purchasing guns from dealers that have a history of violating firearms laws.
Sen. Nancy Skinner represents the 9th Senate District and is chair of the Senate Budget Committee and the California Legislative Women’s Caucus.