T R U T A N I C H . M I C H E L ,
L L P Attorneys at Law Port of Los Angeles Office
407 North Harbor Boulevard San Pedro, California 90731-3356
Telephone: (310) 548-0410 . Fax: (310) 548-4813
December 22, 1999
Don B. Kates,
San Francisco, CA
Mark K. Benenson
New York, N.Y.
David T. Hardy
RE: Class Action Lawsuit Filed December 10, 1999
Against California Department of Justice Regarding
"Assault Weapons" Registered After March 31, 1992.
Dear Class Member/Client:
On December 10, 1999, this firm filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of the entire class of all individuals who received letters from the California Department of Justice (DOJ) indicating that their "assault weapon" registration is invalid and that they must surrender their firearm(s) to law enforcement, destroy it, remove it from the state, or sell it out of state through specially a licensed "assault weapon" dealer. From reviewing the DOJ's letters we know that many of the firearms registered are not in fact "assault weapons" and that many of the "late" registrations were actually submitted on time to the DOJ.
Your registration is the document (i.e., the "license") that grants you permission to continue to legally own, use, and possess your firearm in the state of California. We believe that before such a "license" can be revoked, the U.S. and California Constitutions require that people be given "due process." That due process includes notice of the intent to revoke the license and a hearing on whether or not a revocation is appropriate. Our lawsuit therefore alleges, among other things, that every individual whose registration is being revoked is entitled to a "due process" hearing to determine whether or not their registration was in fact received late and whether or not their firearm is in fact a "assault weapon."
Although some of those who received these letters no doubt possess firearms that have been designated as an "assault weapon" under California law, and did register after March 31, 1992, we contend that those individuals should nonetheless be entitled to a hearing to determine those facts. We believe that at that hearing the DOJ should bear the burden of proving, at a minimum, that registration was received after March 31, 1992 and that the gun was in fact an "assault weapon."
We have also asked the court to find that you should be able to present other arguments that might if accepted by the hearing officer or court that would entitle to you to retain your firearm. Those potential arguments will vary based on individual circumstances. Among the legal arguments that could be presented are that rifle owners reasonably relied on the DOJ's now apparent misrepresentation that they could register their rifles at any time (even after March 31, 1992), although at the possible risk of an infraction citation and a fine up to $500.00. (The statute of limitation for an infraction citation however, expired one year after the firearm was registered.) Thus, we believe those late registrations should still be valid. We will be outlining other potential arguments in later correspondence.
Our hearing on whether the DOJ must provide each letter recipient with a "due process" hearing is set in the Sacramento Superior Court Dept. 54 for December 29, 1999. We hope the Judge will issue a ruling that day, or at least before the end of the year, but he is not obligated to. It is therefore imperative that you take precautionary measures to ensure that you are not subject to prosecution for possessing an "assault weapon" after December 31, 1999. The easiest way to avoid problems and still challenge this DOJ revocation is to legally transport your firearm out of the state before December 31, 1999. This can be done on a temporary basis, but you should be sure that you are in compliance with whatever state laws may apply in the state where the firearm is going to be stored.
Most of our clients feel that this sort of a temporary transfer of location is preferable to destroying the firearm, surrendering it to law enforcement, or selling it to one of the very few licensed California "assault weapon" dealers that exist. (Assuming you could find such a dealer, the price they will pay you for a firearm with no doubt be far below the market value, since the demand for the firearms is in California is non-existent since they can't be legally purchased here.) All of the options set forth in the DOJ letter, are available however, and should be carefully considered by every individual who received the DOJ letter.
On the 29th of December we will post a "Notice of Ruling" from the judge (if one is available) on the NRA Members' Council website. The website address is www.nramemberscouncils.com. A copy of the pleadings that we filed in this case should be posted on that website shortly, should you desire to review the documents that we've submitted. If you are a member of this class but are not a member of both the NRA and the CRPA, you should seriously considered joining both Associations and making a donation to them to help support this legal effort. The NRA's membership number is (800) 672-3888. The CRPA's membership number is (714) 992-2776.
If we currently don't have your e-mail address, please forward that e-mail address to us immediately, as it is the easiest way for us to keep in touch with you. If you receive this letter and have not previously contacted this office with your information and provided us with copies of paperwork associated with your firearm, please do so immediately and you will become a member of the class.
We've attempted to anticipate all your questions in this correspondence. No doubt there will be some questions that we have not anticipated. Unfortunately, we are not staffed to handle the volume of telephone calls on this issue that we have been receiving. Unless your call is truly urgent we ask that you submit your questions in writing either via U.S. mail or by fax. We will incorporate those questions into a follow-up correspondence to all late registrants.
Thank you for your patience.
TRUTANICH . MICHEL, LLP
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