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Police Gun Waiver Policy to be Redeveloped

Police Chief to add safeguards to avoid ‘past issues’

Published on Thursday, February 13, 2020 | 5:56 am
Detail of firearm waiver letter signed by former Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez in 2016 for a purchase by Pasadena Lt. Vasken Gourdikian. Gourdikian later pleaded guilty to federal charges of engaging in the business of dealing in firearms without a license and making a false statement during the purchase of a firearm and was later sentenced to one year in prison.

Pasadena Police Chief John Perez told Pasadena Now on Wednesday he still plans to rework the department’s suspended gun waiver policy.

Under the policy, with a signed letter from a commander or the police chief, officers can request to buy weapons without the mandatory 10-day waiting period used to perform a background check.

Gun stores are not required to honor the letter.

“The gun waiver policy is unfinished business,” Perez said. “Sometime this year I will have our policy redeveloped to ensure it meets the intentions of the law.”

The waivers can also be used to help police officers purchase “off roster” firearms.

Pasadena Chief of Police John Perez during a 2018 City Council meeting.

Off roster weapons are firearms in California that are not available for purchase by the general public directly from a licensed federal firearms dealer. Police can buy the weapons, and while police officers are not prohibited from selling “off roster” firearms to the general public, they can end up in legal jeopardy if they continue to sell them without a federal firearms license or purchase them for resale.

The waiver program was suspended by former Police Chief Phillip Sanchez after the ATF confiscated 57 weapons from former Pasadena Lt. Vasken Gourdikian’s home.

Gourdikian used the waiver program to buy several weapons, including a Glock 43 handgun in May 2015. That waiver specifically stated the weapon would not be resold and was being purchased for off-duty use, but a week later Gourdikian advertised the same type of weapon for sale on where he sold hundreds of weapons without a federal firearms license.

The weapon was not accounted for when the ATF seized the weapons from Gourdikian’s home on Feb. 17, 2017.

According to the department of justice, one of the weapons turned up at a crime scene two months after its purchase.

In September 2018, Gourdikian pleaded guilty to federal charges of engaging in the business of dealing in firearms without a license and making a false statement during the purchase of a firearm.

Gourdikian was later sentenced to one year in prison.

At the time of the program’s suspension in Pasadena, officials from more than 40 law enforcement agencies throughout the Southern California area contacted by the Pasadena Police Department said their departments also issue similar waiver letters. Of the same agencies surveyed, 15 also issue authorization letters for rifle purchases.

Perez previously said he was considering restarting the waiver program, but adding some type of oversight or accountability factor.

Perez told Pasadena Now the revamped policy would “have safeguards in place to avoid past issues.”

Perez said he would make sure City Manager Steve Mermell and the City Council’s Public Safety Committee in the loop regarding the policy.

“It’s an important community issue,” Perez said.

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