Chuck Michel, one of the National Rifle Association's top lawyers, urged California NRA members not to cooperate with police if their guns turn up at crime scenes, warning that prosecutors would use a non-existent California law to engage in malicious prosecution against gun owners.
A recipient of the NRA's 2013 Defender of Justice Award and representative of the NRA in California, Michel appeared on the January 28 edition of NRA News show Cam & Company to criticize California's Armed and Prohibited Persons System (APPS). APPS is a unique crime fighting tool aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of people who, because of their criminal record or mental health issues, are banned by law from owning them. The system cross references California's gun ownership databases with databases of individuals prohibited from owning a gun in order to identify gun owners who are no longer allowed to own their weapons, who are then instructed to turn in their firearms. If notices to prohibited owners to turn in guns do not receive a response, law enforcement officers may visit the prohibited owners at home to take the guns and in some cases make arrests.
Michel characterized APPS -- which has recovered more than 10,000 guns since its inception -- as a "campaign of shame against gun owners." Stating that "laws out here are now turning the tide so that gun owners cannot trust the police," Michel also claimed that gun owners could be prosecuted if their firearms innocuously end up at the scene of the crime under California law.
MICHEL: So now the NRA has taken a new approach, we are really warning people, the NRA is warning people about these kinds of things [APPS]. The next thing I think will be a warning about not volunteering information if you get called because your gun turns up at a crime scene. Because now with the 48 hour theft reporting, you could be prosecuted if you don't report a gun missing within 48 hours of when you should have known. And of course the prosecutors can say you should have known instantaneously.
But California does not have a law that requires gun owners to report lost or stolen firearms. A proposal to create such a requirement was vetoed in 2013 by California Gov. Jerry Brown, who expressed skepticism of the laws efficacy. Furthermore, as the bill's digest explains, the law would have given gun owners seven days, not 48 hours, to file a report and the time limit would only begin when the gun owner "knew or reasonably should have known" the firearm as missing. Licensed firearm dealers, a small fraction of gun owners, are required to report lost or stolen firearms "[w]ithin 48 hours of discovery" in California.
Laws requiring gun owners to report lost or stolen weapons are meant to combat firearm trafficking by preventing traffickers from avoiding culpability by claiming that crime scene guns left their possession through loss or theft. These laws can also assist in returning stolen firearms to their lawful owners, by putting the police on notice of what is missing. An analysis by gun violence prevention group Mayors Against Illegal Guns found that states with no lost or stolen reporting requirement export crime guns at a rate two-and-a-half times higher than states with reporting requirements:
Previously the NRA released a video special attacking APPS as "confiscation under the guise of safety" by highlighting the case of a woman who had her firearm seized by APPS. However, by the special's own admission the woman had been involuntarily committed, and therefore was not allowed to own a firearm under federal law. The NRA frequently attempts to stifle the enforcement of gun laws, especially on the federal level.