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Justice Department says it's gun shop's job to verify hunting licenses

Posted at 12:16 PM, Aug 16, 2019
and last updated 2020-02-01 15:54:20-05

(KGTV) - The California Justice Department does not verify the validity of hunting licenses for people under 21 who are applying to buy firearms, instead saying that’s the responsibility of individual gun shops.

That information could shed light on how Poway synagogue shooting suspect John Earnest was able to buy his gun at 19 with an invalid hunting license.

Earnest picked up the AR-15 style weapon from San Diego Guns on April 26, the day before the alleged attack. His hunting license was not going to become valid until July 1, 2019, according to state Fish and Wildlife.

A woman who answered the phone at San Diego Guns Friday said the store would have no comment. Earlier this week, a different employee told 10News, “We did everything properly. We did everything we needed.”

Senate Bill 1100 went into effect this year, requiring anyone under 21 buying a rifle to be law enforcement, military, or have a valid, state-issued hunting license.

The Justice Department, however, says gun shops must verify the hunting license before they allow the customer to fill out the state online application. That application leads to a 10-day background check that checks a variety of categories - hunting licenses not listed.

"Dealers are currently responsible for determining whether an exemption would apply under Senate Bill 1100 at the point of purchase. The 10-day waiting period, among other things, is to check if an individual is prohibited by state or federal law from owning or possessing a firearm," a DOJ spokesperson said in a statement.

Earnest is accused of killing Chabad of Poway worshipper Lori Kaye and injuring three others in the April 27 attack.

“He was not 21, so I knew from the beginning there is something fishy here with that gun,” said Israel Dahan, whose daughter Noya was hit by shrapnel and will soon have surgery on her upper cheek. “To be honest with you, what’s the difference? This guy is a killer, it doesn’t matter if he’s going to buy it legally or illegally."

Gun shops found violating the rule would have limited time to correct any violation, which could include getting the firearm back. Earnest, however, allegedly carried out the attack the day after he picked up the AR-15 style weapon.