BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                  AB 1964
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          Date of Hearing:   March 25, 2014
          Counsel:        Gabriel Caswell


                         ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC SAFETY
                                 Tom Ammiano, Chair

               AB 1964 (Dickinson) - As Introduced:  February 19, 2014

           
          SUMMARY  :  Makes the provisions regulating unsafe handguns  
          inapplicable to a single-shot pistol with a break top or bolt  
          action.  Specifically,  this bill  : makes this exemption from the  
          unsafe handgun list inapplicable to a semiautomatic pistol that  
          has been temporarily or permanently altered so that it will not  
          fire in a semiautomatic mode. 

           EXISTING LAW  :  
           
           1)Provides that any person in California who manufactures or  
            causes to be manufactured, imports into the state for sale,  
            keeps for sale, offers or exposes for sale, gives, or lends  
            any unsafe handgun shall be punished by imprisonment in a  
            county jail not exceeding one year.  (Penal Code  32000 subd.  
            (a).)    

             a)   Specifies that this section shall not apply to any of  
               the following (Penal Code  32000 subd. (b).):

               i)     The manufacture in California, or importation into  
                 this state, of any prototype pistol, revolver, or other  
                 firearm capable of being concealed upon the person when  
                 the manufacture or importation is for the sole purpose of  
                 allowing an independent laboratory certified by the  
                 Department of Justice (DOJ) to conduct an independent  
                 test to determine whether that pistol, revolver, or other  
                 firearm capable of being concealed upon the person is  
                 prohibited, inclusive, and, if not, allowing the  
                 department to add the firearm to the roster of pistols,  
                 revolvers, and other firearms capable of being concealed  
                 upon the person that may be sold in this;

               ii)    The importation or lending of a pistol, revolver, or  
                 other firearm capable of being concealed upon the person  








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                 by employees or authorized agents of entities determining  
                 whether the weapon is prohibited by this section;

               iii)   Firearms listed as curios or relics, as defined in  
                 federal law; and

               iv)    The sale or purchase of any pistol, revolver, or  
                 other firearm capable of being concealed upon the person,  
                 if the pistol, revolver, or other firearm is sold to, or  
                 purchased by, the Department of Justice, any police  
                 department, any sheriff's official, any marshal's office,  
                 the Youth and Adult Correctional Agency, the California  
                 Highway Patrol, any district attorney's office, or the  
                 military or naval forces of this state or of the United  
                 States for use in the discharge of their official duties.  
                 Nor shall anything in this section prohibit the sale to,  
                 or purchase by, sworn members of these agencies of any  
                 pistol, revolver, or other firearm capable of being  
                 concealed upon the person.

          2)Specifies that violations of the unsafe handgun provisions are  
            cumulative with respect to each handgun and shall not be  
            construed as restricting the application of any other law.   
            (Penal Code  32000 subd. (c).)   

          FISCAL EFFECT  :   Unknown

           COMMENTS  :   

           1)Author's Statement  :  According to the author, "The single shot  
            exemption undermines the state Unsafe Handgun Law and results  
            in an increasing number of handguns being obtained that do not  
            meet state safety requirements. Buyers have learned that  
            altering  a semi-automatic handgun so that it becomes a single  
            shot handgun can be easily undone, returning the weapon to its  
            original illegal configuration.
             
             "AB 1964 will eliminate the exemption for single shot handguns  
            in the state Unsafe Handgun law. AB 1964 will halt the growing  
            trend of people buying and converting unsafe handguns to get  
            around state mandated safety features and/or safety test for  
            handguns sold in California.

            "Pursuant to AB 1964 no one will be able to purchase an unsafe  








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            handgun in California by virtue of it being a single shot  
            weapon.

            "AB 1964 will ensure that more handguns purchased through a  
            dealer are handguns which meet all safety and firing tests and  
            contain all state required handgun safety features."

           2)Single Shot Handgun Modifications from Semi-Automatic Weapons  :  
             According to the background provided by the author, existing  
            law provides that the sale, loan, or transfer of firearms must  
            be processed by, or through, a state licensed dealer or a  
            local law enforcement agency. Existing law also provides that  
            no "unsafe handgun" may be manufactured or sold in California  
            by a licensed dealer, as specified, and requires that the  
            Department of Justice (DOJ) prepare and maintain a roster of  
            handguns which are determined to be safe.  "Unsafe handguns"  
            are defined as those which do not have requisite safety  
            devices, do not meet specified firing tests, or do not meet a  
            drop safety test, and therefore do not appear on the DOJ safe  
            handgun roster.
             
             Since the enactment of the Unsafe Handgun law, the statute has  
            been amended a number of times to add exemptions to the  
            prohibitions on buying and selling the affected weapons.  One  
            of the most significant loopholes in the Unsafe Handgun law  
            concerns single shot handguns.  In effect, a person may  
            purchase a handgun which is manufactured or altered to only  
            accept a single bullet (no semi-automatic reload of a bullet  
            in the firing chamber), even if the handgun is considered by  
            DOJ as unsafe, (i.e. not meeting state safe handgun  
            requirements, and therefore not on the state safe handgun  
            roster).

            Up until 2009, no more than 1100 single shot handguns which  
            did not contain state required safety features or failed state  
            safety tests, were purchased and registered each year, often  
            far fewer than that.  However, beginning in 2010, the number  
            of unsafe single shot handguns purchased and registered  
            skyrocketed.  In 2013 alone, more than 18,000 of these weapons  
            were purchased in California.

            The jump in the purchase of unsafe single shot handguns  
            coincides with the enactment of new handgun safety  
            requirements such as bullet chamber load indicators and  








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            micro-stamping of bullets. In essence, more people are using  
            the exemption to acquire guns they would otherwise be unable  
            to legally purchase if the gun was bought in its original  
            semi-automatic configuration.

            The conversion of semi-automatic handguns to single shot  
            handguns can be easily undone by a buyer or the dealer after  
            the buyer takes delivery of the weapon.  Reconverting a single  
            shot handgun into its original semi-automatic configuration  
            undermines the state Unsafe Handgun Law and results in an  
            increasing number of handguns being obtained that do not meet  
            state safety requirements. 

           3)Safe Handgun Law  :  SB 15 (Polanco), Chapter 248, Statutes of  
            1999, made it a misdemeanor for any person in California to   
            manufacture, import for sale, offer for sale, give, or lend  
            any  unsafe handgun, as defined, with certain specific  
            exceptions.  SB 15 defined an "unsafe handgun" as follows:   
            (a) does not have a requisite safety device, (b) does not meet  
            specified firing tests, and (c) does not meet a specified drop  
            safety test.

              a)   Required Safety Device  :  The Safe Handgun Law requires a  
               revolver to have a safety device that, either automatically  
               in the case of a double-action firing mechanism or by  
               manual operation in the case of a single-action firing  
               mechanism, causes the hammer to retract to a point where  
               the firing pin does not rest upon the primer of the  
               cartridge or in the case of a pistol have a positive  
               manually operated safety device.  

              b)   Firing Test  :  In order to meet the "firing requirements"  
               under the Safe Handgun Law, the manufacturer must submit  
               three unaltered handguns, of the make and model for which   
               certification is sought, to an independent laboratory  
               certified by the Attorney General.  The laboratory shall  
               fire 600 rounds from each gun under certain conditions.  A  
               handgun shall pass the test if each of the three test guns  
               fires the first 20 rounds without a malfunction, and fires  
               the full 600 rounds without more than six malfunctions and  
               without any crack or breakage of an operating part of the  
               handgun that increases the risk of injury to the user.  
               "Malfunction" is defined as a failure to properly feed,  
               fire or eject a round; failure of a pistol to accept or  








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               reject a manufacturer-approved magazine; or failure of a  
               pistol's slide to remain open after a manufacturer approved  
               magazine has been expended.

              c)   Drop Test  : The Safe Handgun Law provides that at the  
               conclusion of the firing test, the same three  
               manufacturer's handguns must undergo and pass a "drop  
               safety requirement" test.  The three handguns are dropped a  
               specified number of times, in specified ways, with a primed  
               case (no powder or projectile) inserted into the handgun,  
               and the primer is examined for indentations after each  
               drop.  The handgun passes the test if each of the three  
               test guns does not fire the primer.  
              
           4)Governor's Veto Message of AB 169 (Dickinson) :  Current law  
            restricts the sale of so-called "off roster" handguns with  
            several exemptions. Exemptions include sales between private  
            parties and sales of single-shot handguns. Current law also  
            prohibits the sale of more than five handguns per year,  
            whether off-roster or not, except by a licensed firearms  
            dealer.  AB 169 would close a loophole in the single-shot  
            exemption. That makes sense.  The bill would also restrict  
            private party off-roster sales to two per year. I do not  
            support restricting sales in this way without evidence that  
            such restrictions would improve public safety.  I will work  
            with the Bureau of Firearms in the Department of Justice to  
            ensure better tracking and enforcement to prevent individuals  
            from violating the existing five-per-year limit.

           5)Argument in Support  :  According to the California Chapters of  
            the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, "The Brady  
            Campaign was instrumental in the enactment of the Unsafe  
            Handgun Act, Senate Bill 15, in 1999. Under this law, no  
            handgun may be manufactured, imported, sold, or transferred in  
            California unless that handgun model is listed on a roster of  
            handguns maintained by the California Department of Justice.   
            For a model to be listed on the roster of handguns certified  
            for sale in California, the handgun model must pass firing,  
            safety, and drop tests.  Newer models must possess certain  
            safety features, such as a chamber load indicator.  Private  
            party transfers, curio/relic handguns, certain single-action  
            revolvers, and pawn/consignment returns are exempt from this  
            requirement.









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            "Assembly Bill 1964 addresses an exploited loophole in the  
            Unsafe Handgun Act.   Existing law allows for the purchase of  
            a semi-automatic handgun that is not on the roster if the  
            weapon was first modified to accept only a single bullet.  In  
            practice, this has allowed dealers to modify unsafe handguns  
            to single shot weapons for the purpose of the sale, after  
            which they are readily converted back to semiautomatic status.  
             These actions completely negate the intent of the Unsafe  
            Handgun Act.  This bill eliminates this 'single-shot  
            exemption'.

            "The 'single-shot exemption' has been abused in recent years.   
            According to the Department of Justice, up until 2009, no more  
            than 1,100 single shot handguns were purchased each year.   
            However, beginning in 2010, the number of unsafe single shot  
            handguns purchased skyrocketed.  In year 2013, more than  
            18,000 single shot handguns were purchase in California.    
            Clearly, dealers and buyers have found a blatant way to  
            circumvent California's safe handgun law and the newer safety  
            requirements such as the chamber load indicator or  
            microstamping technology.  

            "The intent of the Unsafe Handgun Act is to ensure that  
            handguns meet basic safety standards and include new safety  
            features, such as a chamber load indicator.  The Act ended the  
            proliferation of cheap 'junk guns' that were the weapon of  
            choice among criminals and gang members and reduced the  
            potential for injury and death from accidental shootings."  

           6)Prior Legislation:   

             a)   AB 169 (Dickinson), of the 2013-2014 Legislative  
               Session, changed provisions related to unsafe handguns by  
               limiting the transfer or sale of unsafe handguns to those  
               who are authorized to possess them, and by applying the  
               provisions to single-shot pistols which can be easily  
               modified to semi-automatic weapons.  Contained the  
               provisions of this bill in a larger body of statutory  
               changes.  AB 169 was vetoed by the governor.  

             b)   AB 2460 (Dickinson), of the 2011-2012 Legislative  
               Session, specified that the Department of Justice (DOJ),  
               police departments, sheriffs' officials, marshals' offices,  
               California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation,  








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               California Highway Patrol, district attorneys' offices, and  
               military or naval forces of the State of California may not  
               sell or otherwise transfer the ownership of an unsafe  
               handgun to any entity or person that is not otherwise  
               exempted from possession of an unsafe handgun.  AB 2460 was  
               vetoed by the Governor.  

             c)   SB 15 (Polanco), Chapter 248, Statutes of 1999, made it  
               a misdemeanor for any person in California to manufacture,  
               import for sale, offer for sale, give, or lend any unsafe  
               handgun, as defined, with certain specific exceptions.
           
          REGISTERED SUPPORT / OPPOSITION  :   

           Support 
           
          California Chapters of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun  
          Violence 
          Coalition Against Gun Violence 
          Coalition to Stop Gun Violence 
          Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence
          Physicians for Social Responsibility

           Opposition 
           
          None 
           

          Analysis Prepared by  :    Gabriel Caswell / PUB. S. / (916)  
          319-3744