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California’s DOJ Proposes “Emergency” Regulations

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Earlier this month, the California Department of Justice declared that “an emergency exists, and that the immediate adoption of [a new emergency regulation] is necessary to avoid serious harm to the public peace, health, safety, or general welfare…” The “emergency” is in relation to the transfer of firearms and/or ammunition to people possessing certain drivers licenses, which in no small part was created by the California legislature itself.


In 2013, California passed Assembly Bill 60, which created a driver license program for individuals who could not provide proof of lawful presence in the United States. The program became effective in 2015 and allowed individuals to apply for a driver license or ID card in California regardless of their immigration status and without providing proof of lawful presence in the United States. Those licenses or ID cards issued under the program were distinguishable from regular California driver licenses and ID cards, by the notation “FEDERAL LIMITS APPLY” imprinted on the front. 

In 2016, ATF issued an Open Letter to California FFLs stating that they could not transfer firearms or ammunition to a person who presented a drivers license or ID card issued under AB 60 because there is a reasonable belief that the person is in the United States unlawfully and is prohibited from possessing firearms and ammunition.

In 2018, California began to issue drivers licenses and ID cards which comply with the federal REAL ID Act. There are two types of drivers licenses and ID cards issued, those that are federally compliant with the REAL ID Act and those which are not. Those which are not also contain the notation “FEDERAL LIMITS APPLY” imprinted on the front, making them indistinguishable from licenses and IDs issued under AB 60. In order to obtain either of these, individuals must be able to prove they are lawfully within the United States.

Emergency Regulation

To address the problem that the legislature created, the California DOJ has proposed emergency regulations. The proposed regulations would require that an individual who presents a non-federally compliant ID (one marked “FEDERAL LIMITS APPLY” that was no issued under AB 60) for a background check to purchase a firearm or ammunition would also need to submit proof of lawful residence in the United States.

An individual could do this by offering 1) an unexpired passport or passport card, 2) certified copy of a US birth certificate, 3) US Certificate or Consular Report of Birth Abroad of a US Citizen, 4) an unexpired foreign passport with valid US immigrant visa and approved I-94 form, 5) certified copy of birth certificate from a US Territory, 6) certificate of Naturalization or US Citizen, or 7) an unexpired Permanent Resident Card.

If a person's name differs between their ID and the documentation provided (for example they were married, divorced, etc.), the regulations would require an individual to provide additional documentation to show who they are.

End Result

It is unclear why the California DOJ deems this to be such an emergency, particularly in light of the fact that ATF issued an open letter to all California FFLs which stated that FFLs could not transfer firearms or ammunition to a person who presented a drivers license or ID that was issued under AB 60. Emergency regulations allow Californians only five days to submit comments in relation to the proposed rule.

Click here for information on how to comment on the proposed rule. Comments are due by the 21st.

About the Author

Adam Kraut is a firearms law attorney practicing in southeastern PA and across the country federally. He hosts The Legal Brief, a show dedicated to crushing the various myths and misinformation around various areas of the gun world. He was also the general manager of a gun store in the suburbs of Philadelphia.

Instagram: @theadamkraut
Twitter: @theadamkraut

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