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California Firearm Sales Decreased Slightly in 2002

Tuesday, March 18, 2003
Contact: (415) 703-5837

(SACRAMENTO) – Attorney General Bill Lockyer today announced sales of firearms during 2002 dropped slightly to 352,425 from 354,202 in the previous year. Sales of handguns in 2002 inched higher than 2001's thirty-year low, while the sale of rifles and shotguns dropped slightly.

From January through December of 2002, Californians made a total of 169,469 handgun and 182,956 long gun purchases, pending a 10-day waiting period and background check of the buyer. In 2001, the number of handgun sales totaled 155,203 and 198,999 long guns were sold.

"With the exception of 1999, gun purchases in California have averaged about 357,000 a year for the past seven years," Lockyer said. "That shows gun transactions are relatively stable, yet far below the average of 600,000 a year we saw when violent crime peaked in the state during 1992 to 1994," Lockyer said.

Under California law, individuals are limited to purchasing only one handgun every 30 days, but may purchase multiple long guns at the same time. When more than one gun is purchased at one time, it is reflected as one purchase. Handgun sales in 2002 increased 9.1 percent from the record low of 155,203 in 2001, while long gun sales decreased 8.0 percent from the 198,999 transactions recorded in 2001.

During 2002, a total of 3,833 sales were denied by the California Department of Justice because the purchaser fell into a prohibited category. Persons prohibited from purchasing, owning or possessing firearms include convicted criminals, individuals who are the subject of a restraining order and those who are deemed to have a mental condition that makes them a danger to themselves or others. More than 2,000 of those denials were based on criminal convictions, including 11 for homicide, 22 for sex crimes, 26 for robbery, and 1,240 for assault.

"We work not only to keep guns away from dangerous criminals, but also to make sure that law-abiding citizens are able to purchase, use and store their firearms safely, " Lockyer said. Since January 2002, all handgun sales must include an approved firearm safety device, such as a trigger-lock or safety box, for safe storage. Since January 2003, handgun buyers must show they can safely operate handguns before purchase.

Attached are a Dealer's Record of Sales (DROS) worksheet for 2002 that summarizes firearm purchases and denials, and a summary of California firearm purchases and denials since 1972.

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