BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    





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          |                                                                 |
          |         SENATE COMMITTEE ON NATURAL RESOURCES AND WATER         |
          |                   Senator Fran Pavley, Chair                    |
          |                    2013-2014 Regular Session                    |
          |                                                                 |
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          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  
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          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.   
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          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  
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          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  
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          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.) 


































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          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




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