Skip to main content

SF police buy from gun makers that broke federal law

A Glock 17 pistol in law enforcement’s hands | Ed Jones/AFP via Getty Images

Half the gun dealers selling to San Francisco police broke federal law at least once, city officials confirmed. 

The San Francisco Police Department says it only buys from vendors in good standing with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Yet the department also admitted it lacks “internal process” to account for dealers that may be in good standing at the time of the sale but previously violated the law. 

The findings from a review requested by Supervisor Catherine Stefani early last month in the wake of gun massacres in Half Moon Bay and Monterey Park as well as a bloody shooting in Oakland that left one dead and seven wounded.

“Although the procurement process is robust, involving a lot of checks and balances, the department is interested in reviewing the potential addition of guardrails,” SFPD policy director Diana Oliva-Aroche wrote in a March 1 letter to Stefani. 

Supervisor Catherine Stefani asked SFPD to explain how it wound up buying from gun makers that ran afoul of federal law. | Michaela Vatcheva for The Standard

From now on, SFPD said it will “confirm that vendors have no violations before finalizing any procurements.” 

The review prompted by inquiries from gun control advocates and city leaders came after a report from the SF chapter of nonprofit Brady United Against Gun Violence. They found at least 90 law enforcement agencies in California bought firearms from sellers cited for violating federal laws—and not just once, but up to a dozen times in one case.

A Bay Area Problem

With its long history of restricting firearms, San Francisco has some of the strongest gun controls in the nation. Supervisors banned the sale and possession of “ghost guns” in 2021, five years after requiring gun sellers to keep video records of firearm sales and report ammunition sales to SFPD.  

The legislative efforts effectively pushed gun sellers out of the city. The last holdout, High Bridge Arms, shuttered in 2015 after racking up 10 federal violations and losing its license. 

But a slew of gun dealers still sell in the East Bay and Peninsula, while police throughout the state still buy from vendors cited by federal regulators, according to Brady United. 

The San Jose Police Department spent over $1 million from 2015 to 2021 with hometown dealer LC Action, which violated federal arms laws at least 40 times since 1995. 

LC Action maintained contracts with 67 California law enforcement agencies in this six-year period, despite racking up enough violations that a federal investigator in 2005 suggested yanking its license. 

Stefani, SFPD and Brady United didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Filed Under