A California bill aims to close a loophole that allows police officers to purchase unlawful handguns for personal use or for the purpose of reselling them.
Senator Nancy Skinner, a democrat from Berkeley, introduced SB 377 to prevent police officers from having access to guns that are off limits to civilians in the state.
The bill would also make it so officers have to wait 10 days to purchase legal handguns.
Police officers are currently allowed to use unlawful handguns while on duty. The bill only addresses the use of handguns and does not include other weapons.
“There’s no good reason to allow an exception when we know these weapons are unsafe,” Skinner stated. “Law enforcement officers are not allowed to purchase other illegal products in the state. Guns should be no different.”
In California, strict gun laws ban the sale of unlawful handguns. The California Department of Justice has a roster of handguns that meet the state’s strict safety standards, and only these handguns are deemed legal to sell and purchase. Handguns not certified by the DOJ are considered “off roster” and are unlawful to purchase or sell in the state.
However, due to a loophole in California’s illegal firearms law, law enforcement officers who work in the state are exempted and can currently buy off-roster handguns.
This exemption pertains to employees of police agencies, sheriff’s offices and even those from other public agencies, including the Department of Motor Vehicles, Parks and Recreation Department, Fish and Wildlife, county welfare fraud investigators, college campus and K–12 police officers.
According to Skinner, officers have been caught reselling off-roster and unlicensed firearms in the past, which led to the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to issue a bulletin warning California agencies about the trend.
Indeed, a 2020 article in the L.A. Times discussed the case of an officer who pleaded guilty to illegal firearms dealing in a San Diego federal court. The maximum prison sentence was five years.
Skinner’s office assured that the bill does not prevent law enforcement agencies from purchasing off-roster firearms for official use.
Skinner also said a provision may be added to the bill to prevent law enforcement agencies from purchasing weapons from firearm dealers that have violated firearm laws in the past.