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New effort to shore up oversight that allowed Poway shooter's erroneous gun purchase

Posted at 3:50 PM, Jul 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-20 19:52:13-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- Poway Synagogue shooter John Earnest's guilty plea means he will be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

But the oversight in state law that allowed Earnest to erroneously buy the gun still exists.

Now, there's a renewed effort to close that loophole.

"We're codifying common sense, we're codifying prudence," said State Sen. Anthony Portantino, a Democrat from Los Angeles County. "My goal is to keep these weapons out of the hands of people who shouldn't get it."

Portantino is the author of Senate Bill 715, which in 2025 would require the state Justice Department to verify state hunting licenses with Fish and Wildlife before approving a firearm sale to someone under the state's minimum age of 21 but over 18.

Earnest was 19 when he purchased the assault style weapon used in the April 27, 2019 attack from San Diego Guns in Mission Gorge. He bought the gun in April 2019 but presented a hunting license that would not become valid until July 1, 2019. Still, ABC-10 uncovered that the sale went through because the gun shop accepted the license and that the state Justice Department approved Earnest's application without verifying the validity of the license.

Last year, Portantino introduced legislation to require the verification between the Justice Department and Fish and Wildlife, but Gov. Newsom vetoed it over concerns it would require a disruptive technology upgrade. The governor did outlaw buying semi-automatic center-fire assault style weapons with a hunting license, however the opportunity exists with other types of firearms.

The version Portantino introduced in 2021 delays the implementation of the system until 2025, but in the interim gives gun shops guidelines on rejecting invalid licenses.

"As used in this part, a valid and unexpired 'hunting license' means a hunting license issued by the Department of Fish and Wildlife pursuant to Article 2 (commencing with Section 3031) of Chapter 1 of Part 1 of Division 4 of the Fish and Game Code, for which the time period authorized for the taking of birds or mammals has commenced but not expired," the bill says.

The bill passed the State Senate and is going through the State Assembly.

A worker at San Diego Guns declined comment Tuesday.