Firearm Retailers, 2A Groups Sue Over 'Orwellian' California Law

AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu, File

The new year is bringing a host of new gun control laws to California, but Second Amendment activists are engaged in a full-court press to keep the state’s latest infringements from impacting gun owners… and now firearm retailers as well.


Starting on January 1, all federally licensed firearm retailers in the state must comply with several new mandates from California lawmakers, including a requirement that each and every sale must be videotaped. That’s right, Big Brother will be watching gun stores and their customers; if not in real-time then on-demand whenever CalDOJ sees fit.

Second Amendment Foundation executive director Adam Kraut says the state is “imposing Orwellian tactics to literally view and overhear private conversations of anyone who walks into a gun shop or visits a gun show, or the home of a residence-based licensed firearms dealer,” calling it a  “violation of privacy to which no person exercising any other civil right would ever be subjected.” 

SAF is teaming up once again with the California Rifle & Pistol Association, Gun Owners of America, and Gun Owners of California to sue the state over the new restrictions; joined in this case by two FFLs and three private citizens. The lawsuit alleges that Section 26806 of the California Penal Code violates not only their Second Amendment rights, but their First Amendment, Fourth Amendment, Fifth Amendment, and Fourteenth Amendment rights as well. 

California has set up a scheme where the only way to purchase a firearm (except in very limited circumstances) is through an FFL. Under Section 26806, this would mean that customers, clients, patrons, and family members would be forced to give up their rights to privacy, speech, assembly, and anonymity in purchasing a firearm, other gun-related item, or otherwise going about their daily lives in a location where an FFL may do business. Section 26806, therefore, violates the right to peaceably assemble and associate without intrusion from the government.

Section 26806 also curtails speech and assembly because anything that is recorded under this section can be used against persons in legal actions (civil or criminal), divorce or child custody battles, business litigation, and the like. The recordings can be subpoenaed for any of these uses, which places the FFL and anyone who enters their space in danger of future prosecution.

For many of the same reasons that Section 26806 violates Plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights, it also violates their right to equal protection under the law.

Section 26806 infringes on the Second Amendment rights of Plaintiffs, and a prime example of this is FFLs at a gun show. Gun shows are held in various venues that are not owned by the FFLs. FFLs are vendors in those shows. If the properties that are rented by the promoters of the gun shows do not agree to put up permanent cameras to record 24 hours per day and store those records according to the law, there is a big possibility that gun shows will no longer be allowed to occur in these facilities.

On its face, it is clear that Section 26806’s purpose and intention are to make a “symbolic” gesture and a “value statement” about the otherwise lawful sale of firearms and related products and of the proliferation of the “gun culture” in California and elsewhere. We know this because there is no evidence that having expensive cameras and audio recordings in a retail location acts as a deterrent to crime. There is even less evidence of this in a home-based business, that is generally only open to prescreened customers who have already ordered and paid for a firearm. The government making this type of value statement about one segment of the population that they find unfavorable in ideology is a violation of Equal Protection. California’s targeting of gun owners on the basis of their exercise of constitutional rights, makes the violation even more nefarious.

Section 26806 mandates a government taking without just compensation by commandeering space within the FFL businesses or homes for the use of government tracking, and by forcing FFLs to purchase equipment that is unwanted to carry out the government’s bidding.

Finally, Section 26806 violates the privacy of individuals in gun shops, gun shows, and in the private homes of FFLs who conduct business in their home.


At the very least, these new requirements are going to be difficult for many smaller shops to comply with, given the cost of setting up and maintaining the equipment and storing the footage captured by the in-store cameras and microphones. But as the complaint argues, the new mandates are also a backdoor way of shutting down gun shows; and one that’s become even more important after a federal judge ruled that the state’s prohibition on gun shows on state-owned property is likely to be found unconstitutional. If the state isn’t allowed to prohibit gun shows outright, they can achieve the same effect by imposing unworkable rules for gun show promoters.

The new mandates also force home-based FFLs like Adam Richards, an attorney and FFL in Sacramento, to make a choice; start recording inside their home or give up trying to sell firearms altogether.

The separate structure where the FFL business is conducted is also his home office where he works approximately 50% of his time on his legal practice. This work includes telephone calls with clients, opposing counsel, law enforcement and others. His family also frequently visits him in the mornings and evening in this office/FFL space and having his young children recorded in potentially a partial state of dress before bed and recording private conversations with his children or spouse are greatly concerning to Mr. Richards. Should Section 26806 be allowed to continue, Mr. Richards will have to either stop being an FFL or risk exposing his clients and family to privacy violations because of the constant recording. Plaintiff Richards would continue his FFL business and his legal business out of his home were it not for the intrusiveness of SB 1384 which will force him to remove the FFL business from his home.


And the anti-gunners wouldn’t shed a tear if Richards or any other FFLs are forced to close up shop as a result of the demands of Section 26806. In fact, that would be cause for celebration, not consternation, for the gun control crowd.

California already imposes a number of constitutionally problematic mandates on gun sellers and buyers; including a ten-day waiting period, “universal” background checks on both firearms and ammunition, and rationing purchases. Despite all those limitations lawmakers now insist that FFLs record every move and sound inside their shop in the name of public safety. The Orwellian tactics are doubleplus ungood, but hopefully Big Brother will get a supersized takedown as a result of this lawsuit.

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