The law in California decides who may possess, carry, and use a firearm and what types of firearms are legal in this state. California has recently adopted several new gun laws that the state’s gun owners must know about. The comprehensive gun law reforms make this state’s gun laws the toughest in the nation. While several of the new laws will not take effect until July 1st, others took effect on January 1st. Governor Jerry Brown issued a statement in 2016 that said in part: “My goal in signing these bills is to enhance public safety by tightening our existing laws in a responsible and focused manner, while protecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners.”
The new statutes are designed to make it more difficult for criminals in our state to acquire guns. Still, a number of California firearm owners believe that the new laws are ill-conceived and superfluous. The National Shooting Sports Foundation, for example, issued a statement saying that it is “disappointed that Governor Brown chose to sign into law these highly restrictive and unneeded gun control measures.”
WHICH NEW GUN LAWS TOOK EFFECT IN JANUARY?
Assembly Bill 1135 and Senate Bill 880 have expanded the category of weapons legally considered “assault” weapons to include semi-automatic pistols without fixed magazines and centerfire rifles. AR-type firearms and some hunting rifles can no longer be legally sold in California as of January 1, 2017. Under the new statute, no assault weapon or rifle may be transferred, inherited by, or sold to a family member in this state unless it has been made permanently inoperable.
Assemblymember Marc Levine said Assembly Bill 1135 and Senate Bill 880 represent new legislation that “closes a loophole” which allowed certain military-style assault rifles to be sold in California. The current owners of these weapons may keep them legally, provided that the weapons are re-registered with the California Department of Justice on or before December 31, 2017.
Assembly Bill 1151 also took effect January 1st. It prohibits a firearm owner from lending a gun to someone who is not an immediate family member. Hunting guides are exempted if they loan a firearm to a licensed hunter in hunting season. Falsely reporting that a firearm has been stolen or lost is now a crime under Assembly Bill 1695. The law is designed to deter “straw purchasers” who purchase and then resell weapons to persons who can’t pass background checks. Straw purchasers then report those firearms as stolen or lost. In southern California, if you are charged with any weapons violation, consult with an Orange County criminal defense attorney.
And since January 1, under Senate Bill 869, police officers must obey the same regulations as the rest of us by locking their handguns securely in unattended vehicles – in a trunk or in an out-of-view container. The new statute is a reaction to the criminals who have stolen weapons from police officers and used those weapons to commit crimes. “Officers’ guns must be securely stored if they are left in vehicles. This is a matter of basic public safety and common sense,” according to State Senator Jerry Hill.
WHICH NEW GUN LAWS TAKE EFFECT IN JULY?
In November 2016, California’s voters approved Proposition 63, the “Safety for All” ballot initiative proposed by California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom. The proposition calls for expanded background checks for the purchasers of ammunition and magazines. Also as part of Proposition 63, beginning July 1, 2017, gun owners in this state will have five days to report the theft or loss of a firearm, and weapons dealers will have forty-eight hours to report the theft or loss of ammunition or firearms. Those who sell ammunition will also have to be licensed beginning July 1.
Senate Bill 1446 also goes into effect on July 1st. Senate Bill 1446 forbids Californians from owning large-capacity ammunition magazines that hold more than ten rounds. The new law also requires anyone possessing such a large-capacity magazine to turn it over to a law enforcement agency, transfer it to a licensed firearms dealer, move it out of California, or destroy it by July 1st, 2017. A firearm owner’s noncompliance with Senate Bill 1446 can be penalized by a minimum fine of $100.
Anyone who bought a firearm with a high-capacity magazine before the year 2000 may continue to possess the magazine legally if it’s used only with that single weapon. The law also exempts some of the pistols made for Olympic target-shooting and firearms made prior to 1899. Props in film and television productions, police officers in the line of duty, those who hold special weapons permits, retired law enforcement officers who are licensed gunsmiths, and weapons on display at historical museums and institutions are also exempted by Senate Bill 1446.
WHAT ABOUT OTHER NEW FIREARMS LAWS?
In 2019, Senate Bill 1235 will become the law in California. It will mandate background checks for anyone purchasing ammunition in this state, and it will create a statewide database to monitor those ammunition purchases. Senate Bill 1235 also makes it illegal for any party to provide ammunition to someone that the party knows or has cause to believe is not the actual end purchaser of the ammunition – who may be unable to pass a background check.
If you are accused of a weapons crime or firearms violation in southern California, get help by contacting an experienced Orange County criminal defense attorney. Under the U.S. Constitution, your right to bear arms is a fundamental legal right, but it is not an absolute right. You can lose your right to bear arms in California if you are convicted of a felony or certain other crimes such as intimidating witnesses, threatening a police officer, or discharging a firearm in a grossly negligent manner.
A domestic violence conviction can also result in the loss of someone’s right to bear arms in California. If you work in the security field, the firearms business, or in law enforcement, losing your right to possess a firearm could conceivably result in losing your job. In some cases, an experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to help you if you have lost your right to own a firearm in California. If you currently own a gun in California, own it responsibly. The state is expected to enforce its new gun laws strictly and aggressively.