California DOJ Court Filing in FPC “Assault Weapons” Lawsuit Shows Semi-Automatics Are Most Popular Firearms, Huge Increase For Likely First-Time Gun Buyers in 2020

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SAN DIEGO, CA (March 16, 2021) — New California Department of Justice (DOJ) information filed in Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC)’s Second Amendment lawsuit challenging California’s ban on so-called “assault weapons” shows that the number of likely new gun owners skyrocketed in 2020, continues to be high in 2021, and that semiautomatic firearms are overwhelmingly popular, FPC announced today. The State’s response to Federal District Court Judge Roger T. Benitez’s February 26 order requiring that the defendants submit additional information and the testimony of DOJ Bureau of Firearms Assistant Director Blake Graham can be viewed at AssaultWeaponLawsuit.com

The Court’s Order directed the defendants to adduce for the years 2020 and 2021:

  • The total number of firearms sold in the state with background checks; 
  • If ascertainable, the total number of rifles, the total number of shotguns, the total number of semiautomatic pistols, and the total number of revolvers sold in the state, with background checks; and,
  • If ascertainable, the number of first-time buyers of a firearm in the state.

Attorney General Becerra’s March 15 response states that:

  • The total number of firearms sold in California with background checks in 2020 was 1,165,309. 
  • As of March 12, 2021, the total number of firearms sold in California with background checks in 2021 was 180,058. 
  • The total number of rifles sold with background checks in California in 2020 was 317,257.
  • As of March 12, 2021, the total number of rifles sold in California with background checks in 2021 was 51,800.
  • The total number of shotguns sold with background checks in California in 2020 was 161,330. 
  • As of March 12, 2021, the total number of shotguns sold in California with background checks in 2021 was 26,032. 
  • The total number of semiautomatic pistols sold with background checks in California in 2020 was 585,409. 
  • As of March 12, 2021, the total number of semiautomatic pistols sold in California with background checks in 2021 was 87,945. 
  • The total number of revolvers sold with background checks in California in 2020 was 94,194. 
  • As of March 12, 2021, the total number of revolvers sold in California with background checks in 2021 was 13,031. 

With respect to new (or previously unregistered) gun owners:

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  • Approximately 369,511 individuals purchased a firearm in California in 2020 who had not previously submitted a DROS application to the Department prior to January 1, 2020. 
  • As of March 12, 2021, approximately 42,548 individuals purchased a firearm in California in 2021 who had not previously submitted a DROS application to the Department prior to January 1, 2021. 

Explained Adam Kraut, FPC’s Senior Director of Legal Operations, “These Department of Justice data confirm our claim that semiautomatic firearms are constitutionally protected arms and are commonly possessed and used for lawful purposes. They also show that a significant number of California’s forty million residents likely chose to exercise their Second Amendment rights for the first time in the past twelve months. Our evidence, experts, and the State’s own data prove that the ban on so-called ‘assault weapons’ is unconstitutional and irrational. Now that the State’s response is filed we have no reason to believe that the Court will not issue its final judgment without delay. FPC is proud to have fought for the rights of millions of individuals and human liberty in this potentially landmark lawsuit.”

Firearms Policy Coalition and its FPC Law team are the nation’s next-generation advocates for the right to keep and bear arms and adjacent issues, having recently filed many major federal Second Amendment lawsuits, including challenges to the State of Maryland’s ban on “assault weapons” (Bianchi v. Frosh), the State of Pennsylvania’s and Allegheny County’s carry restrictions (Cowey v. Mullen), Philadelphia’s Gun Permit Unit policies and practices (Fetsurka v. Outlaw), Pennsylvania’s ban on carry by adults under 21 years of age (Lara v. Evanchick), California’s Handgun Ban and “Roster” laws (Renna v. Becerra), Maryland’s carry ban (Call v. Jones), New Jersey’s carry ban (Bennett v. Davis), New York City’s carry ban (Greco v. New York City), the federal ban on the sale of handguns and handgun ammunition by federal firearm licensees (FFLs) to adults under 21 years of age (Reese v. BATFE), and others, with many more cases being prepared today. To follow these and other legal cases FPC is actively working on, visit the Legal Action section of FPC’s website or follow FPC on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube.

Firearms Policy Coalition (firearmspolicy.org) is a 501(c)4 nonprofit organization. FPC’s mission is to protect and defend constitutional rights—especially the right to keep and bear arms—advance individual liberty, and restore freedom through litigation and legal action, legislative and regulatory action, education, outreach, grassroots activism, other programs. FPC Law is the nation’s largest public interest legal team focused on Second Amendment and adjacent fundamental rights including freedom of speech and due process, conducting litigation, research, scholarly publications, and amicus briefing, among other efforts.

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