BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    Ķ

                            Senator Loni Hancock, Chair              A
                             2013-2014 Regular Session               B

          AB 1964 (Dickinson)                                        4
          As Introduced: February 19, 2014 
          Hearing date:  June 10, 2014
          Penal Code

                         UNSAFE HANDGUNS: SINGLE-SHOT PISTOLS  


          Source:  Author

          Prior Legislation: AB 169 (Dickinson) - 2013 vetoed
                       SB 269 (Dutton) - Chapter 683, Statutes of 2005
                       SB 15 (Polanco) - Chapter 248, Statutes of 1999

          Support: All Saints Church; 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; League of Women Voters of  
                   California; Michael Feuer, Los Angeles City Attorney;  
                   Physicians for Social Responsibility; South County  
                   Citizens Against Gun Violence; Women Against Gun  
                   Violence; Los Angeles District Attorney's Office

          Opposition:California Association of Federal Firearms Licensees

          Assembly Floor Vote:  Ayes 48 - Noes 25

                                         KEY ISSUE




                                                        AB 1964 (Dickinson)


          The purpose of this bill is to amend an exemption to the safe  
          handgun requirements for single-shot firearms by exempting only a  
          single-shot pistol with a break top or bolt action and a barrel  
          length of not less than six inches and that has an overall length of  
          at least 10 inches when the handle, frame or receiver, and barrel  
          are assembled, as specified. 

           Existing law  provides that commencing January 1, 2001, no  
          "unsafe handgun" may be manufactured or sold in California by a  
          licensed dealer, except as specified, and requires that the  
          Department of Justice (DOJ) prepare and maintain a roster of  
          handguns which are determined not to be unsafe handguns.   
          Private party sales (used or previously owned) and transfers of  
          handguns through a licensed dealer are exempted from those  
          restrictions.  (Penal Code §§ 27545, 32000, et seq., § 32110.)

           Existing law  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(a).)  
          Existing law  does the following:

                 Defines "unsafe handgun" as any pistol, revolver, or  
               other firearm capable of being concealed upon the person,  
               as specified, which lacks various safety mechanisms,  
               including a chamber load indicator and magazine disconnect,  
               and does not pass listed tests, as specified.  (Penal Code  
               § 31910.) 

                 Requires any concealable firearm manufactured in  
               California, or intended to be imported for sale, kept for  
               sale, or offered for sale to be tested within a reasonable  
               period of time by an independent laboratory, certified by  
               the state DOJ, to determine whether it meets required  
               safety standards, as specified.  (Penal Code § 32010.)



                                                        AB 1964 (Dickinson)

                 Requires DOJ, on and after January 1, 2001, to compile,  
               publish, and thereafter maintain a roster listing all of  
               the pistols, revolvers, and other firearms capable of being  
               concealed upon the person that have been tested by a  
               certified testing laboratory, have been determined not to  
               be unsafe handguns, and may be sold in this state, as  
               specified.  The roster shall list, for each firearm, the  
               manufacturer, model number, and model name.  (Penal Code §  

           Existing law  requires that, commencing January 1, 2010, all  
          semiautomatic pistols that are not already listed on the roster  
          be designed and equipped with a microscopic array of characters  
          that identify the make, model, and serial number of the pistol,  
          etched or otherwise imprinted in two or more places on the  
          interior surface or internal working parts of the pistol, and  
          that are transferred by imprinting on each cartridge case when  
          the firearm is fired, provided that the DOJ certifies that the  
          technology used to create the imprint is available to more than  
          one manufacturer
          unencumbered by any patent restrictions.  On May 17, 2013, DOJ  
          issued that certification.  (Penal Code § 31910(b)(7).) 

           Existing law  specifies that roster requirements do not apply to  
          a single-action revolver that has at least a five-cartridge  
          capacity with a barrel length of not less than three inches, and  
          meets any of the following specifications:

                 The firearm is a curio or relic. 
                 The firearm has an overall length of over seven and a  
               half inches when the handle, frame or receiver, and barrel  
               are assembled.
                 The firearm has an overall length of over seven and a  
               half inches when the handle, frame or receiver, and barrel  
               are assembled and is currently approved for importation  
               under the federal regulations. 

          (Penal Code 32100(a).)



                                                        AB 1964 (Dickinson)

           Existing law  specifies that a single-shot pistol with a barrel  
          length of not less than six inches and has an overall length of  
          at least ten and a half inches is exempt from roster  
          requirements.  (Penal Code 32100(b).)

           This bill  would amend an exemption to the safe handgun requirements  
          for single shot handguns to exempt from those requirements a  
          single-shot pistol with a break top or bolt action and a barrel  
          length of not less than six inches and that has an overall length of  
          at least 10 inches when the handle, frame or receiver, and barrel  
          are assembled.  This exemption would not apply to a semiautomatic  
          pistol that has been temporarily or permanently altered to that it  
          will not fire in semiautomatic mode. 

          For the last several years, severe overcrowding in California's  
          prisons has been the focus of evolving and expensive litigation  
          relating to conditions of confinement.  On May 23, 2011, the  
          United States Supreme Court ordered California to reduce its  
          prison population to 137.5 percent of design capacity within two  
          years from the date of its ruling, subject to the right of the  
          state to seek modifications in appropriate circumstances.   

          Beginning in early 2007, Senate leadership initiated a policy to  
          hold legislative proposals which could further aggravate the  
          prison overcrowding crisis through new or expanded felony  
          prosecutions.  Under the resulting policy, known as "ROCA"  
          (which stands for "Receivership/ Overcrowding Crisis  
          Aggravation"), the Committee held measures that created a new  
          felony, expanded the scope or penalty of an existing felony, or  
          otherwise increased the application of a felony in a manner  
          which could exacerbate the prison overcrowding crisis.  Under  
          these principles, ROCA was applied as a content-neutral,  
          provisional measure necessary to ensure that the Legislature did  
          not erode progress towards reducing prison overcrowding by  
          passing legislation, which would increase the prison population.  



                                                        AB 1964 (Dickinson)

          In January of 2013, just over a year after the enactment of the  
          historic Public Safety Realignment Act of 2011, the State of  
          California filed court documents seeking to vacate or modify the  
          federal court order requiring the state to reduce its prison  
          population to 137.5 percent of design capacity.

          The State submitted that the, ". . .  population in the State's  
          33 prisons has been reduced by over 24,000 inmates since October  
          2011 when public safety realignment went into effect, by more  
          than 36,000 inmates compared to the 2008 population . . . , and  
          by nearly 42,000 inmates since 2006 . . . ."  Plaintiffs opposed  
          the state's motion, arguing that, "California prisons, which  
          currently average 150% of capacity, and reach as high as 185% of  
          capacity at one prison, continue to deliver health care that is  
          constitutionally deficient."  In an order dated January 29,  
          2013, the federal court granted the state a six-month extension  
          to achieve the 137.5 % inmate population cap by December 31,  

          The Three-Judge Court then ordered, on April 11, 2013, the state  
          of California to "immediately take all steps necessary to comply  
          with this Court's . . . Order . . . requiring defendants to  
          reduce overall prison population to 137.5% design capacity by  
          December 31, 2013."  On September 16, 2013, the State asked the  
          Court to extend that deadline to December 31, 2016.  In  
          response, the Court extended the deadline first to January 27,  
          2014, and then February 24, 2014, and ordered the parties to  
          enter into a meet-and-confer process to "explore how defendants  
          can comply with this Court's June 20, 2013, Order, including  
          means and dates by which such compliance can be expedited or  
          accomplished and how this Court can ensure a durable solution to  
          the prison crowding problem."

          The parties were not able to reach an agreement during the  
          meet-and-confer process.  As a result, the Court ordered  
          briefing on the State's requested extension and, on February 10,  
          2014, issued an order extending the deadline to reduce the  
          in-state adult institution population to 137.5% design capacity  
          to February 28, 2016.  The order requires the state to meet the  
          following interim and final population reduction benchmarks:



                                                        AB 1964 (Dickinson)

                 143% of design bed capacity by June 30, 2014;
                 141.5% of design bed capacity by February 28, 2015; and,
                 137.5% of design bed capacity by February 28, 2016. 

          If a benchmark is missed the Compliance Officer (a position  
          created by the February 10, 2016 order) can order the release of  
          inmates to bring the State into compliance with that benchmark.   

          In a status report to the Court dated May 15, 2014, the state  
          reported that as of May 14, 2014, 116,428 inmates were housed in  
          the State's 34 adult institutions, which amounts to 140.8% of  
          design bed capacity, and 8,650 inmates were housed in  
          out-of-state facilities.   

          The ongoing prison overcrowding litigation indicates that prison  
          capacity and related issues concerning conditions of confinement  
          remain unresolved.  While real gains in reducing the prison  
          population have been made, even greater reductions may be  
          required to meet the orders of the federal court.  Therefore,  
          the Committee's consideration of ROCA bills -bills that may  
          impact the prison population - will be informed by the following  

                 Whether a measure erodes realignment and impacts the  
               prison population;
                 Whether a measure addresses a crime which is directly  
               dangerous to the physical safety of others for which there  
               is no other reasonably appropriate sanction; 
                 Whether a bill corrects a constitutional infirmity or  
               legislative drafting error; 
                 Whether a measure proposes penalties which are  
               proportionate, and cannot be achieved through any other  
               reasonably appropriate remedy; and,
                 Whether a bill addresses a major area of public safety  
               or criminal activity for which there is no other  
               reasonable, appropriate remedy.




                                                        AB 1964 (Dickinson)

          1.    Need for This Legislation

           The author states, in part: 

               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  

               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.  



                                                        AB 1964 (Dickinson)

               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 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  

          2.    Effect of the Legislation  

          SB 269 (Dutton) Ch. 683, Stats. of 2005 exempted from the safe  
          handgun requirements, single-shot pistols with a barrel length  
          of not less than 6 inches and which has an overall length of at  
          least 101/2 inches when the handle, frame or receiver, and  
          barrel are assembled.  The intent of SB 269 was articulated in  
          the author's statement: 

               Single-shot pistols are specialty firearms used mostly  
               by sportsmen and competition shooters.  Because of  
               this, they are not sold large numbers compared to the  
               sales of semiautomatic pistols and double action  
               revolvers.  The cost of testing single-shot pistols,  
               because of the many barrel length and chamber  
               dimension options available depending upon the  
               intended usage, could easily exceed the amount of any  
               profit that might be realized.

               sb_269_cfa_ 20050614_074934_asm_comm.html)

          According to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, this  
          exemption has been exploited and has, in practice, allowed  
          dealers to modify off-roster handguns to single-shot weapons for  
          the purpose of the sale, after which they are readily converted  
          back to the original illegal configuration.   

          Direct Action Solutions, a licensed firearms dealer in  
          California, states on its website: 



                                                        AB 1964 (Dickinson)

               OK. Here it is. Here is how the Single Shot Exemption  
               (SSE) works here at Direct Action Solutions.

               For starters, the SSE transfer process cannot be done  
               on every pistol that is not listed on the California  
               Roster of Approved Handguns.  Most of the guns we  
               offer require purchasing extra parts to make the gun  
               meet the dimensional requirements needed to make the  
               pistol eligible for SSE, which means the pistol must  
               have a minimum barrel length of 6 inches and an  
               overall length of 10.5 inches.

               Since most guns don't fit these dimensional  
               requirements, the solution is to purchase a new barrel  
               from manufacturer or source one from an aftermarket  
               company. In some cases this may cost as much as $500.

               After we have found and purchased a barrel, it will  
               need to be lengthened so it meets the SSE transfer  
               requirements.  Usually lengthening the barrel will  
               help us meet both the barrel and overall length  
               dimensional requirements.  The final modification is  
               to manufacture a block for insertion into the magazine  
               well to 



               change the pistol from a semi-auto magazine fed  
               firearm to a single shot firearm that can only be  
               loaded one round at a time. With the longer barrel  
               installed in the slide and the block installed in the  
               magazine well, we now have a Single Shot Exempt  
               pistol, meaning this pistol is now exempt from the  
               California Roster of Handguns and also legal to sell  
               in California.

               When you come into purchase your SSE pistol, it will  
               be configured with the longer barrel and magazine  
               block installed. You will start your ATF and  
               Department of Justice (DOJ) paperwork and your ten day  
               waiting period. When you return to pick up your  
               firearm, you will sign and complete all the necessary  
               documents and receive your SSE pistol. The gun is now  

               Once the pistol is legally in your possession, you can  
               legally modify it back to its intended original  
               configuration. This means you can remove the  
               lengthened barrel and magazine well block and install  
               or use the original barrel and magazines that came  
               with your gun. This step may require some tools, which  
               we can provide for your use if you desire.

               Once completed, your gun is fully functional, just as  
               it was when it started out life as a Glock Gen4, HK45  
               or any other pistol not on the California Roster of  


          This use of the single-shot exemption has led to an  
          increase in the number of single-shot pistols sold in  
          California in recent years.  In 2006, 360 single-shot  
          pistols were sold in California and this number has grown  
          to 18,053 in 2013.<1> 

          <1> Numbers provided by the California Department of Justice.  



                                                        AB 1964 (Dickinson)

          AB 169 attempted to close this loophole last year in a  
          broader piece of legislation that would have also curtailed  
          the use of private party transfers of off-roster firearms  
          in California.  The Governor vetoed the legislation  
          stating, with regard to the portion relating to single-shot  
          pistols, "AB 169 would close a loophole in the single-shot  
          exemption. That makes sense."

          This legislation is more narrow than AB 169-this  
          legislation would eliminate the ability to convert a  
          firearm to a single-shot pistol so it can be sold in  
          California without being on the roster and would bring the  
          exemption more in line with its original intent.  

          3.   Arguments in Support

           The Law Center to Prevent Gun violence states, in part: 

               Unfortunately, a critical gap in the state's unsafe handgun  
               law enabled the continued circulation of these dangerous  
               guns on the consumer marker.  Under current law, any  
               semiautomatic handgun that has been temporarily altered to  
               operate as a single-shot weapon (i.e., a gun that can only  
               hold a single ammunition round at a given time) is exempt  
               from the unsafe handgun law.  As a result, manufacturers  
               and dealers may sell these temporarily altered single-shot  
               guns to purchasers, who may then convert them

               back into semiautomatic handguns that would not meet the  
               state's safety requirements.  According to the Department  
               of Justice, sales of single-shot guns have skyrocketed and  
               more than 18,000 of these dangerous weapons were sold in  
               California in 2013 alone.  AB 1964 would amend the law so  
               that the unsafe handgun law's requirements apply to any  
               semiautomatic pistol, even if it has been temporarily or  
               permanently altered into a single-shot functionality.

          4.   Arguments in Opposition


                                                        AB 1964 (Dickinson)

           The California Association of Federal Firearms Licensees  
          states, in part:

               The clear intent of this measure is to further narrow  
               California's already onerous and overly burdensome  
               "not unsafe" handgun roster and eliminate more  
               firearms from the non-peace officer marketplace.   
               While AB 1964's passage would certainly reinforce the  
               arguments against the roster in ongoing federal civil  
               rights litigation (see, e.g., Peņa v. Lindley), we  
                                        must remain opposed to AB 1964 on its merits. 

               There is not evidentiary need for the passage of AB  
               1964.  The penal code, as it relates to firearms, is  
               already overflowing with laws that are not enforced or  
               unenforceable.  AB 1964 is a solution in search of a  
               problem and may be the bill that bursts the penal code  

               In 2008, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled  
               in District of Columbia v. Heller that firearms in  
               common use for lawful purpose-such as those targeted  
               for prohibition by AB 1964-are protected under the  
               Second Amendment.