Doe v. BecerraAnnotate this Case
This case involved a challenge to the California Department of Justice’s (DOJ) policy that individuals who possess a federal license to collect “curio and relic” firearms could not, by virtue of possessing that license, purchase more than one non-curio or relic handgun in a 30-day period. DOJ’s position was challenged by two licensed firearms collectors, who alleged DOJ failed to comply with the California Administrative Procedures Act (APA) in adopting this policy, and also sought a declaration of rights. The trial court granted defendants-respondents Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Chief of the Bureau of Firearms Stephen J. Lindley’s motion for summary judgment and denied plaintiffs-appellants Alvin Doe and Paul A. Gladden’s cross-motion for summary judgment on plaintiffs’ complaint for declaratory relief. The trial court ruled that DOJ’s position embodied the only legally tenable interpretation of Penal Code section 27535. On appeal, plaintiffs argued the interpretation DOJ announced in 2014 was void because: (1) it was inconsistent with section 27535; and (2) it was not adopted in compliance with the APA. We agree with plaintiffs and address their arguments in reverse order. Regarding their second argument, the Court of Appeal concluded DOJ’s policy was not exempt from being promulgated under the APA because it did not embody “the only legally tenable interpretation” of the statute. (Gov. Code, sec. 11340.9, subd. (f).) Having decided that DOJ’s 2014 interpretation of section 27535 was void for failure to comply with the APA, the Court resolved any ambiguity regarding the proper construction of the statute and construed it as allowing individuals with the designated federal license, and certificate of eligibility, to purchase more than one handgun within 30 days regardless of the type of handgun being purchased.