NFATCA Report: V22N8

By Jeffrey Folloder

Confused by California’s Gun Laws? See the Attorney General

Jeffrey Scott Kirschenmann of California, CEO of Scott Kirschenmann Farms, Inc., was recently charged with a dozen weapons-related felonies, after he attempted to comply with California’s state-mandated gun registration laws. He attempted to register an AR-15 using the state’s website and electronically submitted photographs of the firearm, which he was required to do by the end of June. Investigators seized two “silencers,” 230 rounds of ammunition and 12 firearms in the search. On May 17, the district attorney’s office charged Kirschenmann with a dozen felony weapons-related charges. He was subsequently released on $150,000 bond.

According to retired Kern County Sheriff’s Office Commander Joe Pilkington, a court-recognized firearms expert, California’s rapidly changing gun laws have created a significant amount of confusion with regards to what requirements are currently mandated. He suggests that anyone struggling to understand the current requirements should meet with a licensed firearms dealer.

That is really bad advice. Most licensed firearms dealers (FFLs) are not lawyers. As such, practicing law by giving legal opinions, advice and direction is not one of the best places for an FFL to be. It’s actually a horrible place to be. Legal advice should be obtained from a lawyer. Preferably one who specializes in the subject matter at hand. Obtaining legal advice from FFLs, friends who mean well, the Internet, social media or the folks on the line at the shooting range is a recipe for disaster.

It is often said that there are 50,000+ laws, rules and regulations that control firearms in the United States. The United States Code, the Gun Control Act, the National Firearms Act, the Tax Code, the Code of Federal Regulations, state laws, municipal laws, codes and regulations and EPA (really) … . There are any number of ways that one can run afoul of the law. For most of the things that collectors, dealers, manufacturers and importers do, there are easily accessible best practices and guides. But there are always questions beyond the run of the mill. When those question arise, it is best to seek competent legal direction.

This does not always mean hiring an expensive lawyer! Contrary to Mr. Pilkington’s advice, the first place a California resident with questions should go to for direction is to the State Attorney General’s office. Getting direction from those who will be enforcing and interpreting the law is always the best, first inquiry. The same mode holds for local and federal issues. Start with the folks who will be responsible for the issue at hand. This is not the clerk at the county tax desk. This is not the NFA Division receptionist on the phone. Each regulatory agency has a specific office tasked with providing an official, legal opinion. That is where you should start.

The same holds true for the legal documents that you may be using to acquire firearms or create legal structures for your business. When there is a problem, go to who wrote the instrument. Trusts, articles of incorporation, etc. Sure, it’s cheap and easy to use a trust in a box or an online template to build your LLC. And most of the time they work in an adequate manner. But who do you go to when something goes wrong? That FFL who sold you the inexpensive trust is not the lawyer who created the document and should not be dispensing legal advice. It should also go without saying that Facebook is not the best resource for addressing legal woes.

The NFATCA has often written in this column about the perils of obtaining legal advice from unqualified resources. It bears repeating because the consequences of violating federal, state and local laws can be significant. Confiscation and loss of property, staggering fines and incarceration are all part of the potential penalties for running afoul of the law. Do you really want to risk that on the word of a random profile of a Facebook group member? The NFATCA spends a great deal of time answering questions and pointing people in the right direction. We also connect people with qualified experts when the need is present. We want to make sure that you get what you need, when you need it. We tip our hats to those who have supported our efforts over the past 15 years, and we thank those who continue to do so.


This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V22N8 (October 2018)
and was posted online on August 24, 2018


Comments have not been generated for this article.