Get Your Firearm Back From California Law Enforcement


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Unfortunately, if you have had one or more of your firearms confiscated, held, or recovered by law enforcement after being stolen, you cannot just go down to the station and pick up your firearms with your claim ticket. The California legislature has set up procedures that must be followed in order for the law enforcement agency to release your firearm(s) back to you.

Law Enforcement Gun Release Application

Under the Penal Code, individuals must complete a Law Enforcement Gun Release Application and submit it to the California Department of Justice Bureau of Firearms before your firearm(s) can be returned to you. You will be required to provide your personal information, firearm information (make, model, serial number, etc.), law enforcement agency information, and pay the applicable fee.

Once the California Department of Justice Bureau of Firearms determines that you are not prohibited from possessing firearms, they will issue you a letter stating that you may legally possess firearms. You can then make an appointment with the respective law enforcement agency in possession of your firearm(s) to pick-up your firearm(s).

Reasons You May Be Denied

Unfortunately, even after the individual complies with the State requirements, many law enforcement agencies refuse to return firearms to their owners because the firearm(s) are not registered in the Automated Firearm System1 or because their local policy requires a “court order.” These polices are in contradiction to and are preempted by State law.

Additionally, some law enforcement agencies often require you to show that you are the bona fide owner of the held firearm(s) by providing proof of ownership. If your weapon is a handgun, a handgun generally cannot, be returned unless it is recorded in the Automated Firearms System as being owned by or loaned to the person who seeks its return. (Cal. Penal Code § 33855, subd. (a)(b).). However, the law enforcement agency may return a handgun to a person who demonstrates that the handgun was transferred to him or her in a manner that was otherwise lawful, but was not required to be recorded in the Automated Firearms System.

Getting Rifles and Shotguns Returned

In the case of long guns such as rifles and shotguns, California law does not require such weapons to be registered in the Automated Firearm System like handguns. Therefore, long guns can be returned to a person who is not listed in Automated Firearms System as the owner of the long gun because the Automated Firearm System generally does not include ownership information about long guns. (Pen.Code, § 11106, subd. (b).) The person seeking return of a long gun not recorded in Automated Firearm System may be required to present proof of ownership, such as a sales receipt from a licensed firearms dealer, or other bona fide evidence the long gun was sold or transferred to him.

Oftentimes, even when presented with proper documentation, law enforcement agencies will continue to disregard State law and your personal property rights. If you are unable to satisfactorily provide proof of ownership of the firearm(s) to the law enforcement agency, you need the assistance of experienced attorneys who can fight for your rights with law enforcement. In some extreme cases, litigation may be necessary to rightfully obtain your firearm(s) held by law enforcement. Please contact The Law Firm of Higbee and Associates for assistance in retrieving your held firearm.

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1The Automated Firearm System is maintained by the California Department of Justice and tracks serial numbers of every firearm owned by government, observed by law enforcement, seized, destroyed, held in evidence, reported stolen, recovered, voluntarily registered, or handled by a firearms dealers.