California legislators recently passed a series of firearms laws, boasting to be the toughest restrictions on firearms ownership in the nation. Pared down from 30 proposed bills, 12 of them have reached the governor’s desk to await his signature or veto. One such law is AB 48 a ban on magazines which can hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
In 1999 California passed a law preventing the sale, manufacture and importation of these types of magazines. This was 5 years after the passage of the Federal Assault Weapon ban which prohibited the manufacture and import of the same type of magazines and even though that law was allowed to sunset in 2004, Californians were still prohibited from purchasing magazines which were legal in the rest of the country.
The law did not prohibit possession of magazines purchased prior to the ban, but AB 48 seeks to change that and take it a step further by prohibiting the sale of magazine parts to California residents such as springs, floor plates, bodies and followers as well as banning the possession of magazines holding more than 10-rounds by amending Section 32310 of the California Penal Code:
(a) Except as provided in Article 2 (commencing with Section 32400) of this chapter and in Chapter 1 (commencing with Section 17700) of Division 2 of Title 2, any person in this state who manufactures or causes to be manufactured, imports into the state, keeps for sale, or offers or exposes for sale, or who gives, lends, buys, or receives any large-capacity magazine is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year or imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170.
(b) Except as provided in Article 2 (commencing with Section 32400) of this chapter and in Chapter 1 (commencing with Section 17700) of Division 2 of Title 2, commencing July 1, 2014, any person in this state who possesses any large-capacity magazine, regardless of the date the magazine was acquired, is guilty of an infraction punishable by a fine not to exceed one hundred dollars ($100), or is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine not to exceed one hundred dollars ($100), by imprisonment in a county jail not to exceed one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment.
(c) Any person who, prior to July 1, 2014, legally possesses a large-capacity magazine shall dispose of that magazine by any of the following means:
(1) Remove the large-capacity magazine from the state.
(2) Prior to July 1, 2014, sell the large-capacity magazine to a licensed firearms dealer.
(3) Destroy the large-capacity magazine.
(4) Surrender the large-capacity magazine to a law enforcement agency for destruction.
(d) For purposes of this section, “manufacturing” includes both fabricating a magazine and assembling a magazine from a combination of parts, including, but not limited to, the body, spring, follower, and floor plate or end plate, to be a fully functioning large-capacity magazine.
The banning of legally owned magazines is one aspect of this legislation that has not been widely reported in the media. Whether this is an intentional oversight or not, many California gun owners and dealers will not be aware of this provision until after the bill is signed into law.
Manufacturers, dealers, distributors and even private individuals could be held liable for sending magazines or their parts to residents or dealers within California if this bill is signed into law. Many of the aforementioned entities have been abiding with California’s existing laws regarding magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds since 1999. This new law will place an additional burden on those individuals and corporations with regard to the sale of magazine replacement parts to California addresses.
The law as written carries no exemption for retired law enforcement officers and their former sidearms, for which reduced-capacity 10-round magazines may not be obtainable. California Highway Patrol (CHP) officers, to name one example, were at one time issued third-generation Smith & Wesson semiautomatic pistols which have been out of production for at least a decade.
The bill has been opposed by CHP’s union and a number of unions representing other law enforcement agencies in California. Should Governor Brown veto the bill, it will likely be brought up in the 2014 legislative session with those points addressed for ease of passage.