What You Need To Know About New California Gun Laws

New California Gun Laws

December 5, 2016

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The new California guns laws have been called Gunpocalypse and Gunmageddon. No matter what you think of gun control, it is clear that these gun laws will have far reaching effects. These laws start taking effect on January 1, 2017. Here is a breakdown of what laws passed (and didn’t pass) and a what you need to know about the new California gun laws.

Five Big Changes

  1. New Assault Weapons Ban (AB 1135 and SB 880)
  2. Magazine Ban (SB 1446 and Proposition 63)
  3. Restrictions on ammo purchases (SB 1235 and Proposition 63)
  4. Restrictions on loaning firearms (AB 1511)
  5. Falsely reporting a stolen firearm now a felony (AB 1695)

This post will examine the new laws for assault weapons and Bullet Button AR style rifles and large capacity magazines. Part II will break down the new laws on ammunition, loaning guns, and reporting them stolen.

1.     California Assault Weapons Ban

Background on California Assault Weapons

California passed laws regulating assault weapons in 1989 and again in 1999. The Robert-Roos Act of 1989 banned specific assault weapons. See the Attorney General “Assault Weapon’s Identification Guide.” The later amendments banned guns based on specific features. For over 15 years now these features have formed Californians’ idea of what constitutes assault weapons.

Excerpt from the (current) 2016 version of Penal Code section 30515:

An assault weapon means . . . A semiautomatic, centerfire rifle that has the capacity to accept a detachable magazine and any one of the following:

(A) A pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon.
(B) A thumbhole stock.
(C) A folding or telescoping stock.
(D) A grenade launcher or flare launcher.
(E) A flash suppressor.
(F) A forward pistol grip.

This definition a detachable magazine plus any of the “evil features” has long formed the definition of “assault weapon.” That definition has now been tweaked to address Bullet Buttons.

Changes to the Assault Weapons Law–the Bullet Button Ban

Assembly Bill 1135 changed the definition from rifles with the “capacity to accept a detachable magazine” to rifles that “do not have fixed magazines.” See below:

The 2017 version of Penal Code section 30515 will read:

An assault weapon means . . . A semiautomatic, centerfire rifle that does not have a fixed magazine but has any one of the following:

(A) A pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon.
(B) A thumbhole stock.
(C) A folding or telescoping stock.
(D) A grenade launcher or flare launcher.
A flash suppressor.
(F) A forward pistol grip.

The same “evil features” remain but the portion about removing the magazine from the gun was changed. By changing this definition, any rifle that does not have a fixed magazine but has any of the listed features is deemed an assault weapon. The next question is–what is a “fixed magazine?”

What is a Fixed Magazine?

AR Bullet Button and ammo

Here is the current definition of detachable magazine that led people to use Bullet Buttons:

“Detachable magazine” means any ammunition feeding device that can be removed readily from the firearm with neither disassembly of the firearm action nor use of a tool being required. A bullet or ammunition cartridge is considered a tool. 11 CCR § 5469.

Here is the new definition used in the statute of “fixed magazine:”

An ammunition feeding device contained in, or permanently attached to, a firearm in such a manner that the device cannot be removed without disassembly of the firearm action. (AB 1135 and SB 880)

Thus, the definition of assault weapons will now encompass the common and popular Bullet Button AR style guns, Bullet Button AK style guns, and many others because the magazines in those guns can be removed without the disassembly of the action. The requirement of using a tool is no longer part of the statute or relevant to the definition of “assault weapon.”

What to do now? What do you need to know about registering and owning an assault weapon? See the frequently asked questions below.

Frequently Asked Questions About California Assault Weapons Laws:

  • Will my Bullet Button AR15 Be Illegal?

    "Bullet Button" AR type guns (among many others) will become assault weapons on 1/1/2017. They will be included as assault weapons that you cannot purchase, possess, or sell. However, if you obtained a bullet button AR style rifle between 1/1/2001 and 12/31/2016, you will be able to register it during 2017.

  • How Can I Register My Bullet Button AR rifle?

    Beginning on January 1, 2017, the California Department of Justice will begin accepting online assault weapons registrations. The website to register is https://cfars.doj.ca.gov. The registration period will be 1/1/2017 through 12/31/2017.

  • When Can I Register My Bullet Button Gun?

    You can register your bullet button "assault weapon" between 1/1/2017 and 12/31/2017.

  • What If I Buy a Bullet Button AR But DROS is Delayed?

    Firearms dealers will not be able to deliver bullet button type guns in 2017 no matter the reason for a delay.

  • After Registering My AR15 as an Assault Weapon, What is Different?

    Registering your rifle as an assault weapon means that you can lawfully posses it. However, you still cannot transfer or sell it. Additionally, there are many other restrictions with assault weapons including where you can use it and how you can transport it.

  • How Can I Transport Assault Weapons?

    Transporting registered assault weapons is different than regular long guns. Rifles and shotguns can be transported if they are unloaded. However, under Penal Code section 30945, registered assault weapons may be transported only between specified locations and must be unloaded and stored in a locked container when transported.

    Pursuant to California Penal Code section 16850, the term "locked container" means a secure container that is fully enclosed and locked by a padlock, key lock, combination lock, or similar locking device. This includes the trunk of a motor vehicle, but does not include the utility or glove compartment.

  • Can I Loan an Assault Weapon?

    No. See Penal Code section 30600. Remember that once registered your bullet button gun will be an assault weapon.

    (a) Any person who, within this state, manufactures or causes to be manufactured, distributes, transports, or imports into the state, keeps for sale, or offers or exposes for sale, or who gives or lends any assault weapon or any .50 BMG rifle, except as provided by this chapter, is guilty of a felony, and upon conviction shall be punished by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 for four, six, or eight years.

  • Where Can I Possess an Assault Weapon?

    You can possess your registered assault weapon as stated in Penal Code section 30945. See below:

    Unless a permit allowing additional uses is first obtained under Section 31000, a person who has registered an assault weapon or registered a .50 BMG rifle under this article may possess it only under any of the following conditions:

    (a) At that person’s residence, place of business, or other property owned by that person, or on property owned by another with the owner’s express permission.

    (b) While on the premises of a target range of a public or private club or organization organized for the purpose of practicing shooting at targets.

    (c) While on a target range that holds a regulatory or business license for the purpose of practicing shooting at that target range.

    (d) While on the premises of a shooting club that is licensed pursuant to the Fish and Game Code.

    (e) While attending any exhibition, display, or educational project that is about firearms and that is sponsored by, conducted under the auspices of, or approved by a law enforcement agency or a nationally or state recognized entity that fosters proficiency in, or promotes education about, firearms.

    (f) While on publicly owned land, if the possession and use of a firearm described in Section 30510, 30515, 30520, or 30530, is specifically permitted by the managing agency of the land.

  • What If I Don't Register My Bullet Button Gun?

    Improperly possessing an assault weapon is a violation of Penal Code section 30605. This is a wobbler offense that can be sentenced as a misdemeanor with up to one year in jail or as a felony with up to 3 years in prison.

  • What Dates Do I Need To Know for the Bullet Button Ban?

    No bullet button gun sales after 12/31/2016. Note that this is the last date to take possession of the gun. You will have to begin the purchase and DROS process earlier.

    To for registering Bullet Button guns as assault weapons runs from 1/1/2017 through 12/31/2017.

  • Can I Sell My Rifle After I Register It?

    After registering your rifle as an assault weapon, you cannot sell it. See Penal Code section 30600.

    Also, keep in mind that your family will not be able to inherit your registered assault weapon. Under Penal Code section 30915, the person who inherits it will have 90 days to either: make it permanently inoperable, sell it to a properly licensed firearms dealer, obtain their own permit from the DOJ, or remove it from California.

2.     California Magazine Restrictions

Current California law bans the sale, gift, or loan of “large capacity” (more than 10 round) magazines. However, the possession of these magazines was not banned.

That has now changed with the signing of SB 1446 and the passage of Proposition 63. Starting July 1, 2017, it will be illegal to continue owning “large capacity” magazines even though they were lawfully purchased and had previously been grandfathered in. The new law does not allow any grandfathering.

Under the new law, owners of magazines that hold more than ten rounds have one year to get rid of them. Under SB 1446 your options are: remove them from the state, sell them to licensed firearms dealers, turn them over to police for destruction, or destroy them. It will be a crime to simply continue possessing them in your home.

Frequently Asked Questions About California Assault Weapons Laws:

  • What Dates Do I Need To Know for the Magazine Law?

    Beginning July 1, 2017, it will be illegal to possess "large capacity magazines."

  • What is a "Large Capacity Magazine"

    Under Penal Code section 16720 a "large capacity magazine" means:

    Any ammunition feeding device with the capacity to accept more than 10 rounds.

    The 2016 California laws have not changed this definition. So your magazines that have the capacity to accept 10 rounds or fewer are unaffected.

  • What is the Penalty for Possessing a Large Capacity Magazine?

    Currently, it is not illegal to possess a large capacity magazine in California. Beginning July 1, 2017, possession will be an infraction or misdemeanor and will also carry a fine.

    Under SB 1446 possession will be an infraction. The first offense will also carry a $100 fine, the second offense a $250 fine, and the third offense a $500 fine.

    Under Proposition 63 possession will be an infraction and $100 fine per magazine or "a misdemeanor not to exceed one hundred dollars ($100) per large-capacity magazine, by imprisonment in a county jail not to exceed one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment."


  • What If No 10 Round Magazines Were Ever Made for My Gun?

    California law has long had an exception to the large capacity laws if no magazines containing 10 rounds or fewer were ever made for your gun. This was contained in Penal Code section 32406 and was found in SB 1446. It read:

    A person lawfully in possession of a firearm that the person obtained prior to January 1, 2000, if no magazine that holds 10 or fewer rounds of ammunition is compatible with that firearm and the person possesses the large-capacity magazine solely for use with that firearm.

    However, Proposition 63 was passed in November and is effective immediately. Prop. 63 amended Penal Code section 32406. That section now reads:

    Subdivision (c) of Section 32310 does not apply to an honorably retired sworn peace officer, as defined in Chapter 4.5 (commencing with Section 830) of Title 3 of Part 2, or honorably retired sworn federal law enforcement officer, who was authorized to carry a firearm in the course and scope of that officer’s duties. “Honorably retired” shall have the same meaning as provided in Section 16690.

    As it stands right now, the exception is no longer reflected in the law. Legal commentators have noted conflicts between Proposition 63 and the other recently passed laws.

Bills that Governor Brown Vetoed

Veto of California Gun Laws

It is also important to keep in mind legislation that was rumored or that was vetoed. For example, many people think that long gun purchases will be limited to one per month starting next year. Here are some bills that were introduced but were not signed into law:

  • Changing the definition of what constitutes a firearm and a receiver. (AB 1673).
  • Make 1 in 30 purchase limitations apply to long guns as well as handguns. (AB 1674)
    • Governor Brown recognized the burden on California gun owners and vetoed the bill.
  • Expansion of who could seek Gun Violence Restraining Order. (AB 2607).
    • This bill would have allowed employers, coworkers, mental health workers, and teachers to seek gun restraining orders. These classes of people would be added to legislation that only took effect earlier this year.
    • It was opposed by civil liberties groups and Governor Brown vetoed the bill stating that it is premature to enact further legislation on this issue.
  • Require reporting of stolen firearms within 48 hours. (SB 894).
    • The bill would have criminalized people who have their guns stolen and fail to report the theft within five days.
    • Governor Brown stated in his veto message that he believed “responsible people report the loss or theft of a firearm and irresponsible people do not; it is not likely that this bill would change that.”