BILL ANALYSIS Ó Senate Appropriations Committee Fiscal Summary Senator Kevin de León, Chair SB 374 (Steinberg) - Firearms: assault weapons. Amended: As Introduced Policy Vote: Public Safety 5-2 Urgency: No Mandate: Yes Hearing Date: May 23, 2013 Consultant: Jolie Onodera SUSPENSE FILE. AS PROPOSED TO BE AMENDED. Bill Summary: SB 374 would tighten California's regulation of "assault weapons," as follows: Amends the definition of a rifle considered an assault weapon to specify "a semiautomatic, rimfire or centerfire rifle that does not have a fixed magazine with the capacity to accept 10 rounds or fewer, or a semiautomatic, centerfire rifle that has an overall length of less than 30 inches. Defines a "fixed magazine" as "an ammunition feeding device contained in, or permanently attached to, a firearm in such a manner that the device cannot be removed without disassembly of the firearm action. Defines a "detachable magazine" as "an ammunition feeding device that can be removed readily from the firearm without disassembly of the firearm action. Requires that a person who, between January 1, 2001, and prior to January 1, 2014, lawfully possessed an assault weapon that does not have a fixed magazine, as defined, including those weapons with an ammunition feeding device that can be removed readily from the firearm with the use of a tool, register the firearm by July 1, 2014, with the DOJ as specified. Enacts provisions for a Firearm Ownership Record program, as specified. Fiscal Impact (as approved on May 23, 2013): One-time costs of $24.6 million (Special Fund*) over two years for the DOJ to process firearm ownership records for an estimated 5 million firearm owners in the state, as well as process registration submittals for lawfully possessed assault weapons over six months until July 2014. Annual ongoing processing costs of about $175,000 (Special Fund*) to process 30,000 to 50,000 firearm ownership records to be fully offset by transaction fees collected from SB 374 (Steinberg) Page 1 registrants. Unknown, increased annual state incarceration costs potentially in the millions of dollars (General Fund). For every 100 new felony convictions (both for manufacturing/sale and possession), costs in the range of $2.8 million to $6 million, compounding to $11.2 million to $24 million for overlapping sentences. Increased annual local incarceration costs potentially in the millions of dollars (Local) for various felony and misdemeanor violations. Potential near-term loss of sales tax revenue of $1.6 million (General Fund) per 10 percent of annual rifle sales in California. Future year impact could be somewhat mitigated to the extent consumers shift to purchases of alternative firearms. *Dealers' Record of Sale (DROS) Special Account Background: The enactment of the assault weapons ban in California is described by the federal Court of Appeal from Silveira v. Lockyer, 312 F.3d 1052 (9th Cir. 2002), in part, as follows: In response to a proliferation of shootings involving semi-automatic weapons, the California Legislature passed the Roberti-Roos Assault Weapons Control Act ("the AWCA") in 1989. The immediate cause of the AWCA's enactment was a random shooting earlier that year at the Cleveland Elementary School in Stockton, California. An individual armed with an AK-47 semi-automatic weapon opened fire on the schoolyard, where three hundred pupils were enjoying their morning recess. Five children aged 6 to 9 were killed, and one teacher and 29 children were wounded. The codified legislative findings and declarations of the AWCA state, in part, "that the proliferation and use of assault weapons poses a threat to the health, safety, and security of all citizens of this state. The Legislature has restricted the assault weapons specified in Section 30510 based upon finding that each firearm has such a high rate of fire and capacity for firepower that its function as a legitimate sports or recreational firearm is substantially outweighed by the danger that it can be used to kill and injure human beings. It is the intent of the Legislature in enacting this chapter to place restrictions on the use of assault weapons and to establish a registration and permit procedure for their lawful sale and possession." SB 374 (Steinberg) Page 2 The AWCA was amended by SB 23 (Perata) Chapter 129/1999 to expand the definition of an assault weapon to include a definition based on its generic characteristics in addition to one of several specified features. SB 23 was enacted in response to the marketing of so-called "copycat" weapons - firearms that were substantially similar to weapons on the prohibited list but slightly different, perhaps only by the name of the weapon, thereby circumventing the ban. The more general definition of an assault weapon enacted under SB 23 was intended to remove the allowance of such copycat weapons that the law previously authorized by its definition of an assault weapon as only those listed by specified make and model. Under current law, a rifle is considered an assault weapon if it is a semiautomatic, centerfire rifle that has the capacity to accept a detachable magazine and has at least one of several specified features. In the absence of a definition of "detachable magazine" in statute, regulations promulgated after the enactment of SB 23 defined a detachable magazine as, "any ammunition feeding device that can be removed readily from the firearm with neither disassembly of the firearm action nor use of a tool being required. A bullet or ammunition cartridge is considered a tool." (11 CFR § 5469(a)) In response to this definition, features such as the "bullet button" have been developed by firearms manufacturers that enable easy detachment of a magazine with the use of a "tool" and are thus not classified as a "detachable magazine." As a result, firearms with features such as the "bullet button" do not meet the current definition of an assault weapon. This bill seeks to recast existing provisions and redefine the types of semiautomatic rifles to be classified as assault weapons by removing the current list of requisite features to be considered an assault weapon, and instead, specifying that an assault weapon is any semiautomatic rifle that does not have particular features, specifically, semiautomatic, rimfire or centerfire rifles that do not have a fixed magazine with the capacity to accept 10 rounds or fewer. Proposed Law: This bill would tighten the state's regulation of "assault weapons" by amending and expanding the definition of a rifle considered an assault weapon, and defining both "fixed magazine" and "detachable magazine," as specified. In addition, SB 374 (Steinberg) Page 3 this bill: Requires that a person who, between January 1, 2001, and prior to January 1, 2014, lawfully possessed an assault weapon that does not have a fixed magazine, as defined, including those weapons with an ammunition feeding device that can be removed readily from the firearm with the use of a tool, register the firearm by July 1, 2014, with the DOJ as specified. Authorizes the DOJ to charge a fee for the registration of up to $20 per person but not to exceed the actual processing costs of the DOJ. The fee, to be deposited in the DROS account, may be adjusted at a rate not to exceed the department's actual processing costs. Provides that on and after July 1, 2014, a Firearm Ownership Record (FOR) shall be submitted to the DOJ for every firearm an individual owns or possesses, with exceptions, but including registered assault weapons, handguns purchased prior to 1991, and rifles without detachable magazines and shotguns purchased prior to 2014. Authorizes the DOJ to charge a fee of up to $19 per transaction to reimburse the DOJ for the reasonable costs of maintaining the FOR program. The fee, to be deposited in the DROS account, may be adjusted annually as necessary to cover the reasonable costs of administering the program. Related Legislation: This measure is part of the following legislative package deemed the Lifesaving Intelligent Firearms Enforcement (LIFE) Act: SB 47 (Yee) 2013 would revise the definition of assault weapon to include a firearm that has one of several specified features and does not have a "fixed magazine" as defined. This bill would require the registration of specified lawfully possessed assault weapons that do not have a fixed magazine, as defined, with the DOJ. This bill is scheduled to be heard today by this committee. SB 53 (De Leon) 2013 would require the sale, purchase, and transfer of ammunition to be subject to additional regulations, as specified. This bill would 1) require ammunition purchasers to obtain an ammunition purchase permit and complete a background check prior to any transaction, and, 2) require DOJ to maintain records of all ammunition vendor licenses and purchase permits issued, as well as all ammunition sales. This bill is scheduled to be heard today by this committee. SB 374 (Steinberg) Page 4 SB 140 (Leno) 2013 Chapter 2/2013, an urgency measure, appropriates $24 million from the DROS Special Account to the DOJ to address the backlog of unlawfully held firearms in the Armed Prohibited Persons System (APPS). This bill was signed by the Governor on May 1, 2013. SB 396 (Hancock) 2013 would ban the possession of large-capacity ammunition magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds, and would require the disposal of any large-capacity magazine, as defined, in specified ways. This bill is scheduled to be heard today by this committee. SB 567 (Jackson) 2013 would revise the definition of shotgun to 1) delete language stating that to be considered a shotgun, the weapon must be intended to be fired from the shoulder, and 2) add language stating a shotgun may include a weapon with a rifled bore as well as a smooth bore. This bill is scheduled to be heard today by this committee. SB 683 (Block) 2013 would expand the current safety certificate requirement on handguns to all firearms. This bill is scheduled to be heard today by this committee. SB 755 (Wolk) 2013 expands the list of misdemeanors that result in a 10-year prohibition from firearms possession to include drug and alcohol-related offenses. This bill is scheduled to be heard today by this committee. Staff Comments: Assuming approximately 5 million people would submit an ownership record for 10 million firearms, costs to the DOJ are estimated at $24.6 million (Special Fund) over a two-year period for processing both Firearm Ownership Records as well as registration over six months for legally owned assault weapons prior to January 1, 2014. This estimate is based on the assumption that 35 percent of American households possess firearms. With approximately 13 million households in California according to U.S. Census data, there could be 4.5 million people required to register their firearms. To account for a potential increase in firearm owners, this estimate has been increased to 5 million. After two years, annual processing costs are estimated at $175,000 (Special Fund) to process 30,000-50,000 additional Firearm Ownership Records submitted per year. SB 374 (Steinberg) Page 5 The DOJ estimates the Bureau of Firearms (BOF) would require 129 two-year limited-term positions and two permanent positions for a total of 131 positions to process the records and retroactive assault weapon registrations. The 129 positions would process registration and ammunition vendors, provide administrative support, and Firearm Ownership Record registrations. The two permanent positions would continue to process on-going Firearm Ownership Records after the first two years. Under existing law, unlawful possession of an assault weapon is an alternate felony-misdemeanor punishable as a felony by imprisonment in a county jail for 16 months, two or three years (without a serious or violent prior felony), or as a misdemeanor by imprisonment in a county jail for up to one year. Current law also provides that any person who within the state imports, manufactures, offers for sale, or who gives or lends any assault weapon, is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment in state prison for four, six, or eight years. By narrowing the scope of firearms that are legal in the state, this bill expands the scope of the aforementioned crimes. Arrest information from the DOJ indicates an increasing number of violations of possession of an assault weapon since 2010, with 825 arrests in 2012. Arrest data for felony violations for the import, sale, manufacture, or loan of an assault weapon reflect a decreasing trend, with 124 arrests in 2012. According to the CDCR, 58 individuals in 2011 and 22 individuals in 2012 were committed to state prison specific to these crimes. It is unknown how many persons will be convicted under the expanded scope of these crimes, though it is assumed the convictions could likely be highest in the near-term. For every 100 individuals (assuming convictions for both manufacturing/sale and possession), increased state incarceration costs could range from $2.8 million to $6 million (General Fund) per year, compounding to $11.2 million to $24 million due to overlapping sentences (assuming the middle terms of the 4, 6, 8 year triad for manufacturing and the 16 month, 2, 3 year triad for possession with a prior), based on the range of potential costs to accommodate extended state prison sentences. To the extent the number of individuals impacted is greater/less or the average sentence imposed is longer/shorter than estimated, annual costs would be impacted accordingly. SB 374 (Steinberg) Page 6 California's prison system continues to operate under federal oversight as it addresses the issues of prison overcrowding and constitutionally adequate health and mental health care in its 33 facilities. On April 11, 2013, the three-judge panel denied the state's motion to vacate/modify the inmate population cap and ordered the state to provide a list of proposed population reduction measures within 21 days of the order (May 2, 2013). To the extent this measure exacerbates prison overcrowding due to lengthier prison terms, this bill creates future cost pressure (General Fund) to potentially utilize additional contract beds, out-of-state facilities, or capital outlay in order to comply with the court-ordered population limit. To the extent the provisions of this bill have the effect of reducing the number of semi-automatic rifles currently sold, there would be an impact to both local and state sales tax revenues. The Board of Equalization has indicated Californians spend over $400 million annually on rifle purchases and over 300,000 rifles are sold each year. For every 10 percent reduction in annual sales, state sales tax revenues are estimated to drop by approximately $1.6 million (General Fund). It is estimated that the impact is likely in the near term, with the impact in future years projected to be somewhat mitigated to the extent consumers shift to purchases of alternative and/or newly developed firearms. To the extent the provisions of this bill serve to reduce the incidence of firearms-related injuries and death, potential future cost savings could be substantial. A study by the non-profit Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE) reported over 105,000 incidences of firearm injury and death in 2010 nationally, with an estimated societal cost of over $174 billion in work lost, medical care, insurance, criminal-justice expenses and pain and suffering. At a unit level, the study reported a governmental cost of $187,000 to $582,000 per firearm fatality in medical and mental health care, emergency services, and administrative and criminal justice costs. The estimated societal cost per firearm injury or fatality, including lost work productivity and quality of life was reported at nearly $430,000 to $5 million, respectively. Recommended Amendments: As currently drafted, in order for a rifle not to be classified as an assault weapon, a semiautomatic rifle must "have a fixed magazine with the capacity to accept 10 SB 374 (Steinberg) Page 7 rounds or fewer." To the extent it could be interpreted that a semiautomatic rifle with a fixed magazine with the capacity to accept more than 10 rounds could also fall outside the definition of an assault weapon (as a 30-round fixed magazine would also have the "capacity to accept 10 rounds or fewer"), staff recommends the following amendment to clarify the definition in PC § 30515(a), as follows: (1)A semiautomatic, rimfire or centerfire rifle that does not have a fixed magazine with the capacity to accept no more than 10 rounds
or fewer. Committee amendments reflect the recommended technical amendment noted above.