New Firearms Legislation Signed Into Law in California

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Federal attempts at more restrictive gun control failed miserably in the US Congress this past year, but the State of California’s 2013 legislative session wasted no time proposing and debating over 30 firearms related bills that were said to be tougher than the draconian laws of New York, New Jersey, Illinois and Maryland.

Some of the initial bills like the one sponsored by Bob Bonta (D-Alameda) called for an outright confiscation of legally owned and registered semiautomatic rifles, pistols and shotguns; but were watered down in committees and debate on the floors of both houses. By the close of the 2013 session, over one dozen firearms related bills made it to Governor Brown’s desk, and the governor vetoed nearly half of them including a ban on any semiautomatic rifle with a detachable magazine and a poorly crafted piece of legislation that would have declared a 5-shot 410 caliber shotgun with a rifled bore as an assault weapon.

Several of the new laws such as AB231 and AB500 are focused on safe storage of firearms by making it a crime to leave a loaded firearm where a child might gain access to it or requiring safe storage in households where a prohibited person may reside.

AB170 by Assemblyman Steven Bradford, (D-Gardena) states that assault weapon permits, 50 BMG rifle permits or machine gun permits may only be issued to an individual instead of a trust, corporation, partnership, limited liability company, association, or any other group or entity, regardless of how the entity was created, after January 1, 2014. The law does not seem to affect current organizations which own these types of firearms, nor does it mention other NFA items that are currently manufactured in California such as silencers or short barreled rifles and shotguns.

California has rarely opened registration periods for so-called assault weapons beyond the initial bans of these types of firearms and intrastate transfers of them have been banned since 1999. Surprisingly, the main target in this group may be the transfer of machine guns among corporate entities for the motion picture industry or as a way to keep new film armorers from doing business in California.

Another bill that passed was a watered down version of AB48. As signed by the governor, it only addresses “magazine parts kits”. While the term may sound like a repair kit containing a new magazine spring and a floor plate or follower to repair an existing magazine, it actually speaks to a practice of out of state dealers selling disassembled magazines to California residents. However the actual language in the bill referred to such disassembled magazines as: “kits that allow gun owners to convert their guns into assault-style weapons that can fire more than 10 rounds of ammunition without reloading”. The language of the bill reflecting a ban on existing magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds was nullified by SB396 failing passage into law.

The most onerous bill that passed was perhaps AB711, a ban on lead ammunition for hunting that was proposed by Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood). Similar to the ban on lead shot for water fowling, this bill bans the usage of ammunition containing any amount lead for all hunting purposes in the Golden State effective July 8, 2019. The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) estimates that this law will cost California millions of dollars in lost revenue through loss of hunting license revenue and federal wildlife conservation funding, due to a lack of effective lead free hunting ammunition.

AB1131, proposed by Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), extends the prohibition from owning firearms for those who have attempted suicide or described a credible violent threat to a psychotherapist from six months to five years. Dovetailing with this new law is one that was sponsored by Richard Pan (D-Sacramento): AB539 which allows a temporarily prohibited person the ability to transfer firearms in their possession or ownership to a licensed firearms dealer for storage. Dealers would have to receive the firearms as if they were taking in a repair or pawn and log them into their bound book. Upon release of the firearms to the owner when the prohibited class no longer applies, the owner would need to complete a Dealer’s Record of Sale (DROS) and a 4473.

A second law introduced by Pan is AB538 which mandates that a licensed firearm dealer provide copies of the DROS form to a firearm purchaser at the time of delivery.

As for the bills vetoed by the governor, Californians can expect to see them brought back in the 2014 session.