BILL ANALYSIS Ó ----------------------------------------------------------------- | | | SENATE COMMITTEE ON NATURAL RESOURCES AND WATER | | Senator Fran Pavley, Chair | | 2013-2014 Regular Session | | | ----------------------------------------------------------------- BILL NO: SB 175 HEARING DATE: April 9, 2013 AUTHOR: Fuller URGENCY: No VERSION: As introduced CONSULTANT: Katharine Moore DUAL REFERRAL: Public Safety FISCAL: No SUBJECT: State game refuges: possession of weapons BACKGROUND AND EXISTING LAW The Department of Fish and Wildlife (department) manages California's diverse fish, wildlife, and plant resources, and the habitats upon which they depend, for their ecological values and for their use and enjoyment by the public. The Fish and Game Commission (commission) has the power to regulate the taking of fish and game but cannot authorize or permit the taking of an animal or bird in a state game refuge (Fish and Game Code (FGC) §200 et seq). There is a recognized need to manage the population of game species and multiple examples of protected state lands (e.g. state game refuges, state parks and wildlife conservation areas, among others) intended to benefit game and wildlife populations and protect the habitat these populations depend upon. Additionally, in California there are similarly-protected federal lands and conservation by private landowners is encouraged. The first state game refuge was established in 1870 and the state game refuge system (FGC §§10500 - 10506) was established in 1917 to protect and enhance game, particularly deer, populations. The number, size and locations of refuges have varied in the last century and there are currently 24 state game refuges in California specified in statute. The locations range from northern to southern California with many clustered in the northeasterly part of the state. The refuges include both private (timber) and public lands. The public lands consist of federal (US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management property, a national monument and a national recreation area), state (State Lands Commission, state parks and youth authority property, and a department ecological reserve) and local (city-owned property) lands. Modern game management techniques 1 have evolved. Current state game refuges are not managed entirely to promote game and their other public value, such as for the enjoyment of camping, hiking and other outdoor activities, is recognized. Poaching is illegal (FGC §2000). Hunting licenses, and, where appropriate, specific tags are required to take game. Numerous laws and regulations apply to firearms in California and there are multiple restrictions on the use of firearms while hunting to prevent poaching and protect public safety. Hunters are allowed to possess firearms while engaged in lawful hunting or while going directly to or returning directly from the hunting expedition (Penal Code (PEN) §25300). Loaded rifles or shotguns are banned while standing on or being driven along a public roadway with limited exception (FGC §2006). It is also unlawful to shoot game from a motor vehicle or airplane or via the internet or to discharge a firearm near buildings or over a public road in a reckless manner (FGC §§3002 - 3004). In a state game refuge, possession of a firearm, "BB device", crossbow, bow and arrow or any trap or other device capable of taking birds or mammals is not allowed unless the firearm is unloaded and in a case and the bow is unstrung, and twenty-four hour notice to the department is also required when traveling through a refuge if public roadways will not be used (FGC §10506). It is illegal to discharge a firearm or shoot an arrow or bolt in a state refuge. Further, all game wardens and other peace officers can enter game refuges to perform their law enforcement duties (FGC §10514). Peace officers are exempted from the prohibition on carrying loaded firearms in public, including a motor vehicle, while on duty and while going to or returning from duty (PEN §25900 et seq and FGC §2006). Retired peace officers also have a right to carry a concealed weapon unless it gets taken away (PEN §26300 et seq). Peace officers and honorably retired peace officers may carry a concealed weapon at any time (PEN §12031b), but are not required to do so. California is a decentralized "may issue" state for concealed weapons permits. Existing law authorizes, but does not require, the sheriff of a county or the chief or other head of a municipal police department of any city or city and county to issue a concealed weapon permit to an applicant that meets specified criteria. These include possessing good moral character and "good cause" to carry a concealed weapon, completion of a safety course and other requirements (PEN §§26150 - 26255). According to data obtained from the Department of Justice, on September 1, 2011 there were roughly 35,000 active concealed weapons permits in California. 2 Roughly 15 months later (December 3, 2012) this had increased to approximately 49,500 active permits, an increase of about 40%, with another 4,200 applications pending. Overall, approximately 0.17% of California adults have a concealed weapons permit, but the percentage varies appreciably by county from low values in urban counties (zero or near zero percent in San Francisco and Los Angeles) to higher ones in more rural areas (approximately 3.5 - 3.8% in Plumas and Lassen, for example). In absolute terms, in December 2012, there were two concealed weapons permits in San Francisco County and more than 5,000 each in Kern and Fresno Counties. PROPOSED LAW This bill would exempt active and retired peace officers and those with concealed weapons permits from the existing requirements to disassemble, keep in cases and unload, as applicable, all firearms when traveling in a state game refuge and waive the existing notice requirements. ARGUMENTS IN SUPPORT According to the author, "the Penal Code authorizes peace officers, honorably retired peace officers and licensed individuals to carry a concealed handgun in public and sensitive areas, yet Fish and Game Code section 10506 does not allow concealed carry by authorized person[s] in a state game refuge. As currently written, section 10506 is in direct conflict with the provisions of [the] Penal Code." The author continues that those who are legally carrying a firearm under the Penal Code "would unknowingly be in violation of the [Fish and Game] Code." ARGUMENTS IN OPPOSITION The Sierra Club states "this bill goes against the intended purpose for the establishment of wildlife refuges which is to provide protection for wildlife against threats." The Public Interest Coalition (PIC) adds "we strongly object to further weakening of any laws related to possessing or carrying firearms in state game refuges." A concealed weapon permit holder "is simply another citizen traveling through a state game refuge where the laws should apply - having to notice [the department] and take the weapon apart are reasonable enough exemptions to the law prohibiting use or possession in the refuge. If noticing [the department] and dissembling or encasing his/her concealed weapon are such hardships, then he/she would be better advised to travel another route." The PIC continues "peace officers who are honorably retired 3 should not be exempt from laws that citizens must follow. The fact that they may be allowed to carry a firearms because of their previous employment is irrelevant and should carry no privileges for carrying possessing a firearms in a state game refuge." COMMENTS This bill is a solution to a problem that is difficult to establish. The department and the author were unable to provide statistics on violations, if any, of FGC §10506. As noted above, FGC §10514 already provides for law enforcement personnel to enter into state game refuges in the performance of their duties. Committee staff were unable to find documented evidence indicating that existing law inhibited or interfered with law enforcement activities in state game refuges. This bill appears to be part of a concerted and on-going effort to limit restrictions on where concealed weapons may be carried (see, for example, SB 1367 (c. 711, Statutes of 2012) by the same author and sponsors lifting firearm restrictions meant to prevent poaching during archery season for deer). Concealed weapons permit holders must still comply with the law . Holders of concealed weapons permits are not exempted from laws that limit where weapons may be possessed. It is the responsibility of the permit holder to be aware of and comply with these restrictions. Further, as noted above, while off-duty and retired peace officers, and concealed weapon permit holders are allowed to carry concealed weapons, they are not required to do so. The nexus is not clear between reasons often cited to show "good cause" to carry a concealed weapon and any applicability to state game refuges and traveling through state game refuges. Poaching remains a concern . According to a 2010 paper by the commission, a recent study indicated approximately $100 million of California wildlife is poached annually. Some of the existing restrictions, as noted above, on firearm handling while engaged in or traveling to and from hunting stem from on-going concerns about the poaching of game and other wildlife by, for example, limiting ready access to weapons, as existing law does in state game refuges. The legislature has acted to address poaching by increasing penalties (see, for example, the passage of AB 708 (Huffman, c. 290, Statutes of 2008)) and reducing the ease of poaching remains necessary. Handguns can be and are used to take game species. In the interests of clarity and the need to continue efforts to prevent poaching, as well as acknowledging the variability apparent between counties in the 4 issuance of concealed weapons permits, the committee may wish to limit the scope of this bill to active and honorably retired peace officers (Amendment 1, including technical changes). This bill is double-referred . The Senate Committee on Public Safety will hear this bill should it pass the Committee today. Related legislation SB 1367 (Fuller, c. 711, Statutes of 2012) lifted the restriction on carrying firearms while hunting deer during archery season for active and retired peace officers. (Amendments taken in this committee removed concealed weapon permit holders from consideration.) 5 SUGGESTED AMENDMENTS AMENDMENT 1 Amend FGC §10500 (b) to read: "(b) To use or have in possession in a game refuge, any firearm, BB device as defined in section 16250 of the Penal Code, crossbow, bow and arrow, or any trap of other contrivance designed to be, or capable of being, used to take birds or mammals, except as provided for in section 10506.
or to discharge any firearm or BB device or to release any arrow or crossbow bolt into any game refuge." Add a new FGC §10500 (c) to read: "(c) To discharge any firearm or BB device or to release any arrow or crossbow bolt into any game refuge." Re-number existing FGC §10500 (c) through (g) to become (d) through (h). Revise page 2, line 2 to read: "10506. (a) Nothing in this code prohibits the possession of" Revise page 2, line 4 to read: "Code, crossbows and bolts, or bows and arrows by" Add on page 2, between lines 14 and 15: "(b) A peace officer listed in Chapter 4.5 (commencing with section 830) of Title 3 of Part 2 of the Penal Code, whether active or honorably retired, is not subject to the travel and notice requirements of subdivision (a) with respect to firearms." Delete on page 2, lines 15 - 22, inclusive. SUPPORT California Rifle and Pistol Association (co-sponsor) National Rifle Association (co-sponsor) OPPOSITION Public Interest Coalition Sierra Club California 6 7