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August 10, 2023

Webinar Recap: All Things California DOJ Compliance

By Carolee Anita Boyles

If you live and work in California, you already know that the laws are different there. But do you know how many ways the California Department of Justice (CADOJ) can fail you on inspections, separate from the inspections that ATF performs? Or how often the CADOJ can require you to allow an inspection? NSSF Consultant Renee Lewis conducted a webinar on everything you need to know about California Department of Justice requirements and inspections on Wednesday, August 16, 2023. The webinar recording has been archived at NSSF’s SHOT University OnlineTM alongside hours of other firearm industry education resources.

California FFL Permit and Licensing Requirements

In order to operate in California, firearm dealers need to be active on the State of California’s Centralized List (CL) of Firearm Dealers. This requires a Certificate of Eligibility, issued by CADOJ, as well as an FFL, Lewis said.  They also need a valid Seller’s Permit issued by the State Board of Equalization and a local license.

In addition to the above licenses, if the dealer pawns, consigns or buys firearms from individuals for inventory, they will need a Secondhand Dealer License. “Sometimes retailers don’t know they need this additional license and often they have trouble getting it, particularly if it’s issued by a city entity,” Lewis said. “Small cities aren’t always well versed with the Business and Professions Code, and sometimes they will argue with dealers and tell them they don’t need the license. But retailers do need it; sometimes they just have to go back and forth with city officials about it.”

California Centralized Lists 101

Once retailers have all their permits and are active on one of the CLs, they can start to sell firearms.

“There are three centralized lists,” Lewis said. “First is the original CL, which is your typical gun store. Then there is the Centralized List of Exempted FFLs (CLEFFL); that would be somebody who doesn’t do retail sales but does internet sales, dealer-to-dealer transfers, bluing, gunsmithing and things like that.”

The third is the CL of Manufacturers (CLM), which includes everyone who is licensed to manufacture firearms in the state of California.

“One dealer can actually be on one, two or all three lists,” Lewis said.

Compliance Inspections

Once you’re up and running, you are subject to inspection by more than just ATF; you also should expect inspections from the California Department of Justice (CADOJ).

“The big difference between ATF inspections and Cal DOJ inspections is the frequency,” Lewis said. “ATF can only go in once a year for an inspection. But Cal DOJ can go in as often as they want to.” In other words, if inspectors find something they don’t like, they can go back in and do another inspection anytime they want to.

“The CADOJ checks more things than ATF does, and they’re stricter about things than ATF is,” Lewis said. “They don’t let you know they’re coming; they just show up. Retailers in California are a lot more afraid of CADOJ than they are of ATF.”

Another difference between what ATF and CADOJ allows is in the storage of firearms.

“ATF allows some home storage,” Lewis said.  “DOJ will not allow home storage; everything has to be done at the licensed location.  If you’re storing guns at a separate location, you would need to be on a CL at your home or other address as well as your store address.  That location will be inspected as well.”

In some areas of California, retailers are subject to a third level of inspections, which is local inspections.

“If you’re in Los Angles, the LAPD has a gun unit that inspects dealers as well,” Lewis said. “San Diego does it too.”

Some Big Errors and Citations to Avoid

Lewis said one big mistake that dealers in California make is the failure to verify that the buyer has an approved firearm safety device.

“Either the firearm comes with an approved locking device, the buyer has to purchase an approved lock from the dealer or another vendor, or they have a safe,” Lewis said. “If they have a safe, they must fill out an affidavit.” The dealer must verify and correctly document that the buyer has met this requirement before he or she releases the firearm.

Another place California retailers get into trouble is with Proof of Residency; many times retailers accept documents they shouldn’t.

“You can’t accept any kind of financial documents,” Lewis said. “People often use their car registration because it’s in the car and easy to use; a car registration is acceptable.”

A third big error is when retailers don’t document that the buyer has met the Firearms Safety Requirement for California.

“To purchase a firearm in California, the customer has to have a valid Firearms Safety Certificate (FSC),” Lewis said. “The customer has to take a firearm safety test; the dealer can administer the test and charge a fee for doing so. The test must be given by a certified instructor, and it has to be administered in a separate room or partitioned area. Not giving the test in a separate area is one of the biggest errors that dealers make.” Dealers must keep the answer sheet for each test and a record of the actual certificates that they’ve issued.

The CADOJ can fine a retailer between $1,000 and $3,000 for each failure to correctly document any of the above requirements, or for any other violation cited during the inspection process.

Lewis discusses all of these things, plus many more of the nuances of selling firearms in California, during her webinar.

All Things CA DOJ Compliance

Watch at SHOT University™ Online


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