Alvin Doe et al. v Bacerra

Alvin Doe et al. v. Becerra

“Many a mickle makes a muckle.”

For those of you who are familiar with 18th century idioms…. (you have an odd hobby).

Those of you who watched the excellent series, Turn:  Washington’s Spies, might have heard George Washington utter this phrase.  Basically, a lot of little things make a big thing.

Such is often the case in the cause of freedom.

The California Court of Appeal, Third District, just issued a smack down to the State… specifically the California Department of Justice… in the case of Alvin Doe et al. v. Becerra.

While this case will probably not directly affect the majority of you, it does have potentially further reaching implications.

Those of you who want to read the actual decision can access it here:

Here is what the case boils down to:

California has a rule that says you cannot acquire more than one handgun in a 30-day period of time.  There are, however, exemptions to that rule; private party transfers are one such exemption with which many of you may be familiar.  One of the other exemptions states that if you have a FFL and a COE (Certificate of Eligibility), you are exempt for the 30-day rule.

So… back in 2014 Mr. Doe (and friends), who happen to have Curio and Relic FFLs, and held valid COEs, asked the DOJ, “Hey… we are exempt from that whole 30-day thing right?”

The DOJ replied by saying, “Ummmm… no… you are not exempt.”

The plaintiffs replied, “Huh?!? We are FFLs!”

“Yes, but you are Curio and Relic FFLs.”


“So, you are only licensed for the collection of curios and relics.”

“Can you point us to the applicable law that you are referencing?”

“I don’t need to.  I am the State Attorney General, and I get to make this @#$@ up as I go along!”

Well, the Court of Appeals disagreed with the State Attorney General.

(If you have arrived here from our newsletter, continue reading here…)

One of the two important aspects in this decision involved the following phrase:

In fact, the literal interpretation of the licensed collector exemption, when read in conjunction with the applicable federal law, appears to be that despite the limited utility of the collector’s license during the purchase of a regular handgun, the purchaser remains “licensed” as a collector under federal law. Stated differently, while the license does not apply to a transaction that does not involve a curio or relic, the license is not invalidated by such a transaction. (27 C.F.R.

§ 478.41(d))

Basically, once you have a license, you have a license.  Even if the underlying transaction does not implicate the license, it does not mean that the license suddenly went away.  If there are benefits to being a licensee, they still apply to you.

Second was this little gem:

As to this particular question of statutory interpretation, there is no reason to believe the Bureau of Firearms has ‘a comparative interpretive advantage over the courts.’ (Yamaha Corp. of America v. State Bd. of Equalization (1998) 19 Cal.4th 1, 12)

Boom!  Mic drop!

This was the court basically telling the DOJ to cut the crap when it comes to statutory interpretation.  Essentially the DOJ had said that since the statutory language was “unambiguous and not open to interpretation,” there was no need to engage in any mandatory Office of Administrative Law procedures.  (Administrative law procedures are public processes that allow for the development of administrative procedures that an executive agency uses to enforce statutory law crafted by the Legislature.)

The court disagreed, and basically said that the language is complicated and potentially contradictory…. they blew it when they decided to just move forward and create a policy without going through the proper procedure.

So… does this create any real opportunities for the Subjects of the Crown in California?

Probably not.

Yet, whenever the arbitrary and capricious power of the State is curtailed, we sit back and smile, and raise our glasses in a toast for freedom.

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