My Recent Tumble Down The Cost Of Living In California Rabbit Hole

I just outsmarted myself in pursuit of the “best deal.”  Again.

I believe it has been pretty well established here that I sometimes go overboard in pursuit of a better deal.  The fact that I regularly and unnecessarily spend dollars on gas to save cents on a box of shotgun shells or petrol that is a few cents per gallon cheaper is evident and has been acknowledged.  The proof as Bill Cosby is believed to have said, “is in the pudding.”  Or, maybe it was Jell-o.

In any event, my most recent money saving adventure led to the edge of the rabbit hole, and I fell in.  Deep.  The abbreviated version (you’re welcome) of this story is that several months ago I got a great deal on a gun I had been lusting for – a 12 gauge Franchi Affinity semi-auto with a camo finish.  The MSRP on this gun is $949, but the standard store price is $799 with $749 as low as anyone seemed willing to sell this particular gun – until I stumbled onto a dealer who had one left.  He felt obligated to sell it for $644 since it was a “floor model,” that had been handled for weeks by prospective buyers, who if they selected that model, received one in an unopened box out of the backroom inventory.

Once I got the gun and shot it a few times, I became so enamored with its qualities, that I decided I needed a 20 gauge model.  Weeks and weeks of research turned up the same basic result of $799 as the standard price with $749 as the best deal to be had otherwise.

Sometime after putting the search on hold to minimize hemorrhaging of the bank account at Christmas,  I walked into The Tackle Box in Chico, during a holiday visit to see the grand kids and their parents.  If you ever find yourself in that part of northern California, I suggest you do the same as The Tackle Box may not be like any business you have ever seen.  What began as a tackle shop in a somewhat rundown strip mall has morphed into a bar and restaurant featuring California’s largest barbecue/smoker and live music on the weekends.

Somewhere in between, guns were added and I found myself looking at a pair of shotguns on the counter with sale tags dangling from them.  One of the two looked like just like what I was looking for, particularly the discounted price of $680.  Being that it was two days before Christmas and I’d not yet picked out a gift for myself, I jumped at the deal and paid for the gun.

California has a ten day “cooling off” period for gun purchases, and since I’d soon be back in San Diego, it was necessary for me to either return to Chico or have the gun shipped to a Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL) closer to home.  I chose the latter.

Having paid for the gun, sales tax and shipping, I was now perilously close to the rabbit hole and my footing at the edge of the burrow was starting to give way as the shipping and insurance cost cut into the “savings” on my special deal.

Sadly, that was only the beginning, and it would not be long before I’d be tumbling headlong down the rabbit hole with no end in sight.

The guns was shipped Parcel Post and what with all the holiday shipping madness and such, did not arrive at my local dealer until Friday, January 2nd.  It took until closing time the following day to properly log the gun into their inventory and since they are closed on Sundays and Mondays, it would not be available to me until their next open day, January 6.  I use the term “available” loosely.  I say this because upon arrival at the store well before it opened in order to be first in line, I found that the gun was only available to handle and look at.

In my admittedly muddled mind, I’d been thinking that the ten day “cooling off” period required by California law commenced when I purchased the gun, but not so.  It begins when you fill out paperwork for the Department of Justice that requires you to address such questions as to your mental health, conviction history and whether you are purchasing the gun to kill or injure someone, among others.

Wanting to get things underway to make up for lost time I completed the paperwork as quickly as possible followed by hearing the following from the clerk.  “Do you have a Firearms Safety Certificate (FSC)?”

“Do you mean a California Hunter Safety Certificate?  Sure, I completed that course over 50 years ago and I believe that the state recognizes the hunting licenses I’ve purchased since then as proof.” said I, as I removed the current hunting license from my wallet.

“Oh no,” said the clerk, “the new California law that went into effect January 1, requires anyone purchasing any gun to pass a new test.  If you pass, I can issue you a Firearms Safety Certificate which will allow you to purchase a gun in this state and is good for the next good for five years, at which time you will have to renew it.  And by the way, it will cost you $25, plus $2 tax.”

The test itself is not particularly daunting and about as meaningful in the genuine interest of safety as the written test for a driver’s license.  I’m pretty sure that if I could pass the test, which I did, both Gus and Jack (our two springer spaniels) could pass without boning up.  The man who followed me with intent of securing an AR-15 did not and will need some boning up.  According to the new law, he must wait 24 hours before taking a re-test, and if he fails that, he will have to pay to pay again.

“So you’ve run my credit card for $27,” I said hopefully.

“Well yes,” he said, “but you might as well leave your credit card out.  Since you passed the test, I’ll now be able to process your DROS (Dealer’s Record of Sale of Firearm) fees which include $19 for the background check, $1 for the Firearms Safety Testing Fee and a $5 Safety and Enforcement fee for a total of $25?”

“So that’s it,” I said, $27 for the Firearms Safety Certificate and another $25 in DROS fees?”

“Not exactly,” said the clerk, ” California law requires that the gun have a state approved lock on it when we transfer the gun to your possession so that is another $5.40, plus our cut in all of this is $40 for handling the transfer of the gun to you, so another $45.40.”

I’m no math whiz, but the additional cost unique to me as a Californian, over and above the $680 for the gun, plus tax and shipping which came to a total of $781, comes to $97.40, for a not so grand total of $878.40.

Just for the sake of useless argument, lets say that one of my Arizona friends, knowing my affection for this particular gun decided to buy one for himself, and being both wealthier and less cost conscious than I am, simply bought it at the normal store price of $799, plus the state sales tax of 5.6% for a total of $843.74.  Once the transaction was over, they could walk our the door with their gun.

As for me and as a Californian, I paid $34.66 more in total cost despite paying $119 less for the gun itself, and will finally be able to take possession of the gun I purchased in full on December 23 – on January 16.

I have no beef with the gun shop that handled the transfer, testing, grading of the test, sale of the lock etc,, all of which are a culmination of past and now new state requirements pertaining to gun purchases.  I certainly don’t begrudge them the $40 they got for administering all of this which must be a pain in the ass for them and is $60 to $100 less than every other shop that I researched.  Plus, they handled it all with courtesy and  when it was needed to prevent me from having a stroke, humor.

As I prepared to leave the store, the clerk cheerfully reminded me that I could pick up my gun after ten days ((23 days after I’d paid for it in full) and that the Firearms Safety Certificate would allow me to purchase guns in California for the next five years without retaking the test.

That is hardly an encouraging thought now that I have tumbled down the rabbit hole and know what it looks and feels like at the bottom.

Note: Today I was advised by the firearms manager of a large sporting goods chain that I was correct in the belief that I was exempt from needing to take the test for issuance of a Firearms Safety Certificate (FSC), and that my valid currrent hunting license serves as proof of my completion of California’s Hunter Safety Test.  He provided me with a copy of the regulations from the Department of Justice which were not followed by the clerk who required that take the test and pay the associated fees of $27.  When I pick up the gun this Friday, I will provide a copy of the regulations and request that they reimburse the fee that should not have been charged.  An update will be provided here. 

When I picked up the gun today, I advised the staff or the error they made and provided the necessary documentation, followed by an email to the owner explaining the entire scenario and requesting a refund for the test fees which I was exempt from.  After some discussion, the owner agreed to provide reimbursement as I had requested.  Case closed.



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