Gunowners in California are ducking for cover under another barrage of new anti-gun laws unleashed by legislators with itchy trigger fingers.
On July 1, 2016, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a slate of six new laws put to his desk by some seriously antigun legislators, an event which became known as “Gunmageddon.”
Here’s the lowdown on California’s Gunmageddon laws. Even if you don’t live in California, read on anyway: there could be a Gunmageddon coming to your state soon.
Obligatory not-a-lawyer disclaimer: This is not legal advice and you should double-check everything, especially since the laws surrounding this always seem to be in flux.
Stop Illegal Gun Sales Act: AB 1695
Stopping illegal gun sales, what could be wrong with that?
The idea behind AB 1695 is to stop “straw buyers” from purchasing guns for felons and other bad guys who can’t legally buy one themselves.
Gun dealers routinely report suspected “straw buyers” to law enforcement, but the Stop Illegal Gun Sales Act ups the game for anybody who lets a weapon get into the wrong hands.
The act makes it a misdemeanor to falsely report a gun as lost or stolen.
Say you give a gun to your cousin Lenny (who can’t buy guns because of X, Y or Z) but you report it “lost” to the authorities. Well, under the new laws in California, you just committed a misdemeanor and you’ll be banned from owning or buying a gun for the next 10 years.
And you’ll have to pay up to $1,000 in fines and spend up to 1 year in prison.
Even with the new laws, felons can still exercise their 2nd Amendment rights and rock it like it’s 1776 with a black powder pistol, which doesn’t require a background check in most states.
- Increases punishments for “straw buyers”
- Makes it a crime to falsely report a gun lost or stolen
Restrict Gun Lending: AB 1511
Before AB 1511 got Governor Brown’s John Hancock on July 1, 2016, Californians could lend guns to pretty much anyone they knew for less than 30 days.
Now, under AB 1511, Californians can only lend guns to family members and partners, like husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, parents, children, siblings, grandparents and grandkids, and only for less than 30 days, and only if they have a valid firearms safety certificate.
You cannot lend guns to anybody who’s not family, even for a day, without submitting forms to the state’s Department of Justice and paying a $19 transfer fee.
You won’t be able to lend guns to your unarmed friends anymore, but that should push them to buy some of their own.
The real downside to AB 1511 is that groups like the Scouts and 4H Club will no longer be able to offer gun safety and marksmanship classes because lending firearms to non-family members will be outlawed.
- Restricts short-term gun lending to family members and significant others
SB 880 and AB 1135 expand California’s definition of an “assault weapon” and make unregistered possession a felony punishable by up to 1 year in prison.
Both bills aim to close California’s “bullet button” loophole. Wait a minute, what’s a bullet button, and where’s the loophole?
To get around California’s weird definition of an “assault weapon,” gun makers just added a button to detach the magazine with the tip of a bullet, hence the term bullet button. That button used to make the weapon legal in California, but not anymore.
Now, under SB 880 and AB 1135, Californians who own guns with bullet buttons will have to register them with the state’s Department of Justice, plus pay a $20 fee for the privilege.
If you don’t register your totally legal guns with the DOJ, you could be convicted of a felony and spend up to 1 year in jail. Unless your gun is totally “featureless” you’ll have to register it with the DOJ.
Check out our guide to a featureless AR-15 to find out if you need to file some (more) paperwork.
Other potential workarounds include the Patriot Mag Release which requiresopening up your upper and lower receivers for AR-15’s to remove the magazine.
This is the second time in California’s recent history that law-abiding gun owners have had to register their so-called “assault weapons” with the state’s Department of Justice, after the 1989 Assault Weapons Ban. If you already registered your weapons under the 1989 Ban, you won’t have to re-register.
- Redefines “assault weapons” (again)
- Criminalizes formerly legal weapons
- Forces gun owners to register their “assault weapons” (again)
Ban High-Capacity Magazines (Again): SB 1446
California law already makes it a crime to buy, sell, give or loan a magazine capable of holding more than 10 rounds, with punishments ranging from a misdemeanor to a felony.
Under the old laws, Californians could keep “pre-ban” high-capacity magazines bought before January 1, 2000, but couldn’t buy new ones. Tens of thousands of Californians still own these “grandfathered” high-capacity magazines, all of which will soon be illegal under SB 1446.
SB 1446 makes it a crime to even own a mag capable of holding more than 10 rounds, whether it’s for a pistol, rifle or a so-called “assault weapon,” and whether or not you acquired it before January 1, 2000.
Under SB 1446, Californians have until July 1, 2017, to destroy their high-capacity magazines, sell them to a licensed dealer, move them out of state or hand them over to local law enforcement, or face fines of between $100 and $500.
- Bans possession of magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds, even those previously “grandfathered” in
- Requires Californians to surrender or destroy their “high-capacity” magazines
*UPDATE* Now the law is currently under federal injuction so you don’t have to get rid of your magazines…yet!
Background Checks For Ammo Purchases: SB 1235
What’s SB 1235 mean for California shooters? It’s basically a bad version of Chris Rock’s old joke: don’t ban guns…make ammo really expensive.
Starting July 1, 2019, you’ll have to present ID to buy ammo in California, and all your purchases will be reported to the state’s Attorney General.
You’ll also get your name run against databases run by the California Department of Justice to make sure you’re cool to buy bullets.
You’ll also have to pay up to $50 for an “ammunition purchase authorization,” plus a $1 tax every time you buy ammo, plus up to $10 to process the transaction.
The bill also requires that anybody selling or transferring ammunition must have a vendor license, so no more “lending” extra ammo to your buddies at the range when they start to run low.
Oh, and, if you accidentally transfer ammo to somebody on the government’s list of prohibited persons, you could be on the hook for $1,000 in fines and up to 1 year in jail.
Online sales of ammo will effectively be banned, and prices will probably go up as vendors charge more to cover the new licensing fees.
- Requires background checks for all ammo purchases
- Establishes a database of people who can’t buy ammo
- Restricts sales of ammo to licensed dealers
No More “Ghost Guns”: AB 857
Under the pre-Gunmaggedon laws, Californians could, like all other Americans, manufacture their own weapons without adding serial numbers and without reporting them to the government.
That’s set to change under AB 857, a bill intended to stop Californians from making so-called “ghost guns.”
AB 857 requires that all finished firearms must bear a serial number by January 1, 2019.
You can still buy 80% completed lowers, but you only have until July 1, 2018, to mill them into finished lowers before you’ll have to report them to the California Department of Justice.
The law states that if you finish an 80% lower receiver after July 1, 2018, you need to apply for a serial number from the California DOJ, pay a fee, and then engrave that serial number on your lower within 10 days, or face a misdemeanor charge.
If you do finish your 80% lower before the July 1, 2018 deadline, you’ll still have to engrave it with a valid serial number (one which meets the ATF’s requirements) but you won’t have to report the receiver or the serial number to the California DOJ or the ATF.
Of course, there’s almost no way for the DOJ to prove that you didn’t make your unregistered weapon before the July 1 deadline; however, if you’re found in possession of a weapon without any kind of valid serial number you could be in serious trouble.
Another bill, AB 1673, would have redefined “firearm” to include unfinished lower receivers that can be “readily converted” to working lowers.
As any amateur who’s tried to mill an 80% lower into a completed lower can tell you, they’re not “readily” converted. Usually only qualified gunsmiths or someone with a lot of milling experience can get it right.
- You have until July 1, 2018, to convert 80% lowers into finished lowers without reporting them to law enforcement.
Governor Brown did veto 4 bills sent to his desk by anti-gun legislators:
AB 1673 would have redefined “firearm” to mean any part of a gun, like a barrel, stock or unfinished lower receiver.
AB 1674 would have applied the 30-day waiting period to all guns sold in California, even shotguns and rifles.
AB 2607 would have increased the number of people who can request a Gun Violence Restraining order.
SB 894 would have made it a crime to fail to report a gun lost or stolen within 5 days.
Proposition 63: The Safety for All Act
Safety for all, eh? Sounds good, but Proposition 63 is overkill.
In a nutshell, Prop 63 bans high-capacity magazines and requires background checks for ammo purchases.
Except SB 1235 and SB 1446 already do the same things, so there’s really no need for Prop 63.
But California’s Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is trying to make a name for himself by putting the issue before voters, and throwing law-abiding gunowners in front of the firing line.
Gunmageddon may have come and gone, but California gunowners did not go down without a fight.
A volunteer organization called “Veto Gunmageddon” (defunct now) started gathering signatures to overturn the new laws almost as soon as they were passed, but they failed to get the needed 365,000 signatures to put the veto referendums on the November ballot.
Whether we like it or not (and we definitely don’t), we have lost the battle of Gunmageddon for now.
But don’t worry: California gunowners are planning to challenge the new laws in court once they take effect.