SACRAMENTO— California’s legislative counsel has concluded a new state law bars consignment sales of many used handguns, prompting criticism from firearms dealers and owners.
Attorney General Bill Lockyer reached the opposite conclusion and says owners and dealers have nothing to fear.
“Our view is that consignment sales are OK, and that’s the way we’ll enforce the law,” said Lockyer spokesman Nathan Barankin. “We feel we have a pretty good handle on what the statute requires.”
The legislative counsel concluded the “Saturday Night Special” law that took effect Jan. 1 is clear that dealers can’t sell on consignment handgun models that haven’t been tested and found safe.
If so, that creates a Catch 22 for both dealers and owners because California law says all gun sales must go through dealers, said state Sen. Ray Haynes, R-Riverside, who sought the legislative counsel’s opinion.
“It basically means that if you own an untested handgun right now, it’s worthless because you can’t sell it,” Haynes said.
The state has tested and cleared more than 260 models of handguns that can be sold through dealers. However, Haynes and other critics say that list excludes older model weapons that haven’t been submitted for testing.
“The majority of the profits dealers made was in used gun sales,” said Chuck Michel, who represents the National Rifle Association and California Pistol & Rifle Association. “It puts dealers in a position where it could put a lot of dealers out of business.”
Prosecutors are likely to follow the attorney general’s interpretation rather than the legislative counsel’s advice, said Barankin. He noted neither opinion holds the weight of a court decision.
Which one is right might not matter, at least until the law is tested in court, said Haynes.
“Anybody that says a dealer might be committing a crime trumps anybody who says they’re not committing a crime,” Haynes said. “Who’s going to sell a handgun if they’re at risk of committing a crime?”
Haynes is looking for some way to resolve any conflict, short of seeking new legislation he predicted would likely die in an unsympathetic Legislature.
Meanwhile, Lockyer on Friday ordered Ontario-based Phoenix Arms Co. to stop making and selling its HP 22 three-inch barrel handgun.
The model malfunctioned more than six times the first 200 times it was fired during testing, Lockyer said in a release.
The company helped spark the Saturday Night Special law along with other California manufacturers collectively dubbed the “ring of fire,” Lockyer said.
Phoenix Arms owner Dave Brazeau said he couldn’t comment until his lawyers review Lockyer’s order.
On the Net:
See more information on the handgun law and a list of approved handguns on the Net at http://caag.state.ca.us/firearms