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California reserve officers sue CA Attorney General for right to have semi-auto rifles

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California Attorney General Kamala Harris alongside former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
California Attorney General Kamala Harris alongside former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

A group of California reserve law enforcement officers have sued Attorney General Kamala D. Harris, claiming her office has ended a long-established rule that allowed them to have semi-automatic rifles while on duty.

Filed by the California Reserve Peace Officers Association in Los Angeles on Wednesday, the lawsuit says that semi-automatic rifles restricted by California as “assault weapons” are permitted to part-time law enforcement if aforementioned rifle is authorized by their departments.

Reserve officer Martin Llanos attempted to register his patrol rifle (California is one of the few states that has a gun registry) , after finding himself as one of the first responders to the San Bernardino terrorist attack who was only armed with his service pistol.

Unfortunately, the department said they did not have funds to purchase a rifle for him- so he purchased one himself.

The State Bureau of Firearms -which is overseen by AG Harris- refused to register the rifle and ordered Llanos to surrender or destroy the rifle, as a letter from the bureau said reserve officers may use department-assigned assault weapons but may not own them for personal use.

According to the Los Angeles Times, attorney general communications director David Beltran said the CBF follows state law.

“We will review the lawsuit once we are served,” he said. “However, the bureau’s policy is consistent with California law. This is simply complying with state law, and the power to effectively change it lies with the Legislature.”

Sean A. Brady, the attorney representing the lawsuit, said that the group decided to sue after the bureau refused to register their rifles.

The bureau’s move to “deny a critical source of protection for police and communities throughout our state during a time of rising terrorism seems to be motivated by little more than election year politics, instead of concern for public or officer safety,” Brady said of Harris, who is running for the US Senate.

Of the 600 law enforcement agencies in California, there are about 5,000 reserve officers who are required to undergo training and pass background checks in the same manner as their full-time counterparts. While not all reservists are paid or equipped equally, they are police officers.

Chief executive of the Reserve Officers Association Kevin Bernzott says that “it is unfortunate that we have to ask a judge to compel the attorney general to do her job. It is frustrating.”

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