We have had more than a few requests to talk about California's new Assualt Weapons Law, who it affects, and how to stay legal in the State of California. This post might be on the longer side, because different laws enacted over the last twenty years affect firearms purchased at various points in history differently. It's helpful to think of these laws and the firearms they affect in terms of groups. For the purposes of this post, we are going to concentrate on groups one to four, which span the last 28 years. So lets start at the beginning....
Group 1 - Penal Code section 12276 subdivisions (a), (b), (c) (Roberti Roos Assault Weapons Control Act of 1989)
Under this act, any firearm on a list specified in Penal Code section 12276 is considered an assault weapon. Such assault weapons are controlled (i.e., may not be legally purchased, kept for sale, offered for sale, exposed for sale, given, lent, manufactured, distributed, or imported) after December 31, 1991, and were required to be registered as assault weapons with the Department of Justice on or before March 31, 1992. In addition, the Roberti-Roos Assault Weapons Control Act controlled AK and AR-15 series assault weapons (Penal Code section 12276, subd (e) and (f) - see group 2). The only legal option for group 1 assault weapons that were not registered on or before March 31, 1992, is to surrender them to law enforcement pursuant to Penal Code section 12288.
Group 2 -Penal Code section 12276 subdivisions (e) and (f) (Kasler v. Lockyer, AK and AR-15 series assault weapons)
The California Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Roberti-Roos Assault Weapons Control Act of 1989 in Kasler v. Lockyer. This decision took effect August 16, 2000. Effective August 16, 2000, firearm models that are variations of the AK or AR-15, with only minor differences from those two models, are assault weapons under the original Roberti-Roos Assault Weapons Control Act of 1989. AK and AR-15 series weapons were controlled as of August 16, 2000, and must have been registered as assault weapons with the Department of Justice on or before January 23, 2001. The only legal option for group 2 assault weapons that were not registered on or before January 23, 2001, is to surrender them to law enforcement pursuant to Penal Code section 12288.
Group 1 and 2 summary: Firearms which fall under these two groups were banned by manufacture name and model number. The complete list for firearms affected by these two groups can be found here on page 82: https://oag.ca.gov/sites/all/files/agweb/pdfs/firearms/forms/awguide.pdf
Group 3 -General Characteristics
As of January 1, 2000, Senate Bill 23 (Chapter 129, Statutes of 1999) provided that firearms that have characteristics falling under any of the categories listed in Penal Code section 12276.1 are assault weapons. These assault weapons were controlled as of January 1, 2000, and must have been registered as assault weapons with the Department of Justice on or before December 31, 2000. However, a person arrested for possession of an unregistered group 3 assault weapon on or before December 31, 2001 could have registered it under conditions specified in Penal Code section 12280(c) pursuant to reducing the charge to an infraction. On and after January 1, 2002, the only legal option for group 3 assault weapons (without modification) that are not registered is to surrender them to law enforcement pursuant to Penal Code section 12288.
PEACE OFFICER EXEMPTION EFFECTIVE JANUARY 1, 2002
Effective January 1, 2002, a peace officer member of a police department, sheriffs’ office, or other law enforcement agency specified in Penal Code section 12280(f) who possesses or receives an assault weapon prior to January 1, 2002, may, with the authorization of his or her agency head, retain and personally possess that firearm provided he or she registers it as an assault weapon with the Department of Justice on or before April 1, 2002. Any such-identified peace officer may also, with the authorization of his or her agency head, purchase or receive an assault weapon on or after January 1, 2002, provided he or she registers it as an assault weapon with the Department of Justice within 90 days of receipt. Agency authorization must be in the form of verifiable written certification from the head of the agency identifying the recipient or possesor of the assault weapon as a peace officer and authorizing him or her to receive or possess the specific assault weapon. The peace officer must include a copy of this authorization with the assault weapon registration. Assault weapon registration forms may be obtained from the Department of Justice by calling (916) 227-3694.
Which brings us to the new law as it stands today......
Group -4 Assembly Bill 1135 (Stats. 2016, ch. 40) / Senate Bill 880 (Stats. 2016, ch. 48) / Assembly Bill 103 (Stats. 2017, ch. 17)
Effective January 1, 2017, "bullet button" firearms are considered assault weapons.
The law revised the definition of "assault weapon" to mean the following:
- A semiautomatic, centerfire rifle that does not have a fixed magazine but has any one of the following:
- A pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon.
- A thumbhole stock.
- A folding or telescoping stock.
- A grenade launcher or flare launcher.
- A flash suppressor.
- A forward pistol grip.
- A semiautomatic, centerfire rifle that has a fixed magazine with the capacity to accept more than 10 rounds.
- A semiautomatic, centerfire rifle that has an overall length of less than 30 inches.
- A semiautomatic pistol that does not have a fixed magazine but has any one of the following:
- A threaded barrel, capable of accepting a flash suppressor, forward handgrip, or silencer.
- A second handgrip.
- A shroud that is attached to, or partially or completely encircles, the barrel that allows the bearer to fire the weapon without burning the bearer’s hand, except a slide that encloses the barrel.
- The capacity to accept a detachable magazine at some location outside of the pistol grip.
- A semiautomatic pistol with a fixed magazine that has the capacity to accept more than 10 rounds.
- A semiautomatic shotgun that has both of the following:
- A folding or telescoping stock.
- A pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon, thumbhole stock, or vertical handgrip.
- A semiautomatic shotgun that has the ability to accept a detachable magazine.
- Any shotgun with a revolving cylinder.
The law exempts from punishment a person who possessed a bullet button assault weapon prior to January 1, 2017, if specified requirements are met:
- Prior to January 1, 2017, the person would have been eligible to register the assault weapon pursuant to subdivision (b) of section 30900.
- The person lawfully possessed that assault weapon prior to January 1, 2017.
- The person registers the assault weapon by June 30, 2018, in accordance with subdivision (b) of section 30900.
All registrations must be submitted electronically via the Internet, through the California Firearms Application Reporting System (CFARS) at https://cfars.doj.ca.gov. The registration fee is $15 per person (transaction). The registration period ends on June 30, 2018. A "fixed magazine" is defined to mean an ammunition feeding device, contained in, or permanently attached to, a firearm in such manner that the device cannot be removed without disassembly of the firearm action.
How do you stay legal?
In many instances, group three firearms may be brought into California compliance without registration, provided they are not listed in groups 1 or 2 by modification in order to eliminate the characteristics banning them.
Group four firearms can also be brought into California compliance by eliminating the characteristics (features) deemed by the State of California to constitute an Assault Weapon; of course you may also register the firearms outlined in the information given above.
Here at Shield, we specialize in converting rifles for the California Market. I invite any individual questions to be addressed on Dark Secret Place, or you can drop me an email firstname.lastname@example.org.