California Captain Facing Firearms Challenges

A captain with the Sacramento Metro Fire Department is fighting allegations related to both state and federal firearms charges. Captain Derik Oakes remains on the job despite a raid on his home in 2019 that resulted in the seizure of several weapons the media refers to as “assault weapons,” but firearms enthusiasts know as AR-15s and AK-47s.

The case is complicated given that California’s so-called “assault weapon ban” was found to be unconstitutional earlier this year. That case is now being appealed, and the trial court ruling has been stayed in the interim. As the Sacramento Bee article explains, Oakes’ case is also complicated by the mind-boggling complexity of firearms laws on the state and federal level, where firearms parts that are purchased when legal one day, are made illegal thereafter.

Oakes reportedly bought parts that were legal at the time under a 2012 ATF memo, but later became illegal in 2018 when federal authorities reversed course. The Bee quoted Oakes as saying:

  • I’ve never asked for help from anybody for anything in my life.
  • And to have the support from the people that I do — from my chain of command all the way up — I can’t tell you what that means. It almost brings tears to my eyes, sometimes just thinking about the support.
  • I learned real fast from my event that the only way you’re going to actually know what is correct is to talk to legal counsel.
  • Many people think they’re doing the right thing, and they find out in the flip of a switch: Oh, no, that’s entirely wrong.

The Bee quoted from documents submitted by Oakes’s attorney, Adam Richards, as saying:

  • There is no allegation that Mr. Oakes posed a threat to anyone or anything, nor is there a victim or harmed party in this case.
  • Instead, this case derives solely from shockingly complex, draconian and arguably unconstitutional firearm statutes created by our beloved politicians in Sacramento.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 45 years of fire service experience and 35 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014, 4th ed. 2022) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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