ATF's Illegal-Police Firearms Investigation Shines Light on California Law

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is investigating whether police officers in three Sacramento-area law enforcement agencies sold banned and/or illegal firearms to the public.

Currently, California law permits police officers to buy certain handguns, high-capacity magazines, and assault rifles that are not available to the general public provided they show their credentials and have permission from their police chiefs.

“Under the law, all they have to do is show their law enforcement credential to a dealer. That’s enough to purchase an off-list handgun or high-capacity magazine,” Steve Lindley, chief of the state Department of Justice’s Bureau of Firearms, told the San Francisco Chronicle

Although BAFTE has served search warrants to the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department, the Roseville and Sacramento police departments, no arrests or charges have been made.

The question of why police personnel across California are allowed to purchase these illegal weapons stems from real-world examples in which law enforcement officers were outgunned by criminals, according to Lindley.

One of the most infamous examples is the 1997 North Hollywood shootout between LAPD and two drugged-addled bank robbers wearing body armor and wielding fully automatic AK-47s.

During the melee, beleaguered LAPD officers were forced to go to a local gun store and acquire arms that would increase their firepower and ability to take out the robbers.

If the BATFE finds that officers and deputies in Sacramento were in fact abusing their privileges and selling illegal arms to citizens, it could spell trouble for law enforcement agencies statewide who benefit from the purchase exemption.  As we’ve seen in the recent past, California lawmakers are not shy about passing laws that inhibit one’s ability to protect himself/herself.

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