California lawmaker wants to stop police officers from buying unlawful handguns

A California senator wants to make it illegal for police officers to buy unlawful handguns and them use them at home or sell them.

This week, Sen. Nancy Skinner, (D-Berkeley) introduced SB 377, which would close a loophole that now allows California law enforcement officers to buy unlawful handguns for their personal use or to resell them. 

Police officers are currently allowed to use these unlawful handguns while at work for official duties and the bill would not curtail that. And the bill only addresses handguns. 

"There’s no good reason to allow an exception when we know these weapons are unsafe," Skinner said in a statement. "Law enforcement officers are not allowed to purchase other illegal products in the state. Guns should be no different."

California’s gun laws include bans on the sale of many types of dangerous handguns. The California Department of Justice maintains a roster of handguns that it has certified as being legal to sell and purchase in the state because the guns meet the state’s strict safety standards. Handguns not certified by DOJ’s list are known as "off roster," and are unlawful to purchase or sell in California.

However, there’s a loophole in California’s illegal firearms law — law enforcement officers are exempted and allowed to buy off-roster handguns for their personal use.

Included in this loophole are officers who work for police agencies, sheriff’s offices, and those employed by a wide-range of other public agencies, including the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Parks and Recreation Department, Fish and Wildlife, county welfare fraud investigators, and college campus and K-12 school police.

Skinner's office noted that in recent years, there have been high-profile scandals involving California officers who bought off-roster firearms and then sold them, effectively becoming illegal arms dealers. Incidents like this led the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to issue a bulletin to California law enforcement agencies warning about the growing trend of law enforcement officers engaging in the business of unlicensed firearms sales.  

Current state law additionally does not require law enforcement officers to wait 10 days — like all other Californians — to purchase legal handguns. 

Skinner's proposal would also close this loophole and require officers to undergo the 10-day waiting period just like everyone else.

The bill would not impact the portion of California law that enables law enforcement agencies to purchase off-roster firearms for official use by officers at work. 

However, Skinner intends to add a provision to SB 377 that would bar law enforcement agencies from purchasing guns from dealers that have a history of violating firearms laws.

The bill has just been introduced and no formal opposition has been filed to date.