BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    

                                                                  SB 374
                                                                  Page  1

          Date of Hearing:   August 21, 2013

                                  Mike Gatto, Chair

                  SB 374 (Steinberg) - As Amended:  August 5, 2013 

          Policy Committee:                             Public  

          Urgency:     No                   State Mandated Local Program:  
          Yes    Reimbursable:              No


          This bill amends the definition of an assault weapon to mean a  
          rifle that "does not have a fixed magazine with the capacity to  
          hold no more than 10 rounds," rather than a rifle with one of  
          six specified features and the "capacity to accept a detachable  

          "Fixed magazine" is defined in the bill 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."  This proposed  
          definition is in contrast to the definition of a detachable  
          magazine in current Department of Justice (DOJ) regulations,  
          which define 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  

          This bill also: 

          1)Provides that any person who, from January 1, 2001, to  
            December 31, 2013, inclusive, lawfully possessed an assault  
            weapon that does not have a fixed magazine, as specified,  
            including those weapons with an ammunition feeding device that  
            can be removed readily from the gun with the use of a tool,  
            shall register the gun with DOJ before July 1, 2015. Requires  
            registrations be submitted electronically via the Internet.  

          2)Authorizes DOJ to charge a registration fee of up to $15 per  
            person, not to exceed reasonable processing costs, to be  


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            deposited in the Dealers' Record of Sale (DROS) Special  

           FISCAL EFFECT  

          1)One-time special fund (DROS) costs in the $3 million range  
            over three years to DOJ to transform the current - and aging -  
            Assault Weapon Registration system into a system capable of  
            handling an estimated one million assault weapon registrations  
            by July 1, 2015 and to process these registrations. These  
            costs would be fully offset by the $15 DROS fee authorized by  
            this bill to cover DOJ costs. 

          2)Unknown, potentially significant annual state GF and local  
            incarceration costs, for additional commitments for  
            possession, manufacture or sale of an assault weapon under the  
            expanded definition, the penalty for which ranges from one  
            year in county jail to four, six, or eight years in county  
            jail, pursuant to correctional realignment. If the person  
            committing this offense has a violent or serious prior, the  
            penalty can be doubled and the sentence served in state  
            prison. Extrapolating from almost 1,000 arrests for possession  
            of an assault weapon in 2012, for every 10 persons with a  
            prior serious or violent felony conviction who are convicted  
            of possession of an assault weapon, pursuant to the definition  
            in this bill, the annual out-year GF cost would be about $1  
            million in four years, assuming an average term of two years  
            and full -per capita costs. 

            Local incarceration costs would be lower, given shorter terms  
            on average. 


           1)Rationale  .  This bill is intended to address the so-called  
            "bullet-button" issue by providing a new statutory definition  
            of a fixed magazine. While current law prohibits possession of  
            assault weapons, and defines an assault weapon (in part) as a  
            semiautomatic centerfire rifle that has the capacity to accept  
            a detachable magazine and has at least one of six specified  
            features - pistol grip, thumbhole stock, folding or  
            telescoping site, grenade or flare launcher, or flash  
            suppressor -  current DOJ regulations cloud the issue,  
            defining a detachable magazine as "any ammunition feeding  
            device that can be removed readily from the firearm with  


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            neither disassembly of the firearm action nor use of a tool  
            required. A bullet or ammunition cartridge is considered a  

            Due to this regulatory definition, magazines are not  
            considered detachable if a "tool" is required to remove the  
            magazine from the weapon. As a result, gun manufacturers have  
            built into their weapons recessed buttons that require a tool  
            - the tip of a bullet suffices - to quickly release the  
            magazine, allowing a replacement magazine to be inserted in  
            seconds. Compared to the release process for a detachable  
            magazine, the only difference is the use of a tool, which is  
            allowable under DOJ regulations. 

            The proposed statutory definition of fixed magazine is the  
            key; the practical impact of this bill is to prohibit  
            bullet-button magazine releases on semi-automatic rifles and  
            prohibit semi-automatic rifles that can accept a detachable  

            According to the author, "The list of these shootings goes on  
            and on and the common characteristic of the firearms used in  
            these mass shootings is the ability to detach a magazine and  
            rapidly reload. That is why I introduced SB 374 which will  
            prohibit the future sale, purchase, manufacture, importation,  
            or transfer in California of semi-automatic rifles that can  
            accept detachable magazines. Rifles with detachable magazines  
            have a virtually unlimited capacity to kill. It is this  
            specific feature that this bill targets: the ability to shoot  
            unchecked semiautomatic gunfire. By focusing on the function  
            of these weapons and not just their form, this bill is aimed  
            at the commercialization of mass killing machines, not the  
            rights of sporting gun and hunting enthusiasts."

           2)Registration and Takings Issues.  This bill does not prohibit  
            possession of a gun that is currently legally owned. This bill  
            requires that the owner of a gun that is not currently  
            considered an assault weapon, but which would be deemed such  
            under the new definition, to register the gun with DOJ before  
            July 1, 2015.  Thus this bill avoids takings issues because  
            the owner of a legally acquired gun does not have to  
            relinquish it.
           3)Support  includes a long list of gun safety advocates, the  
            various entities, such as the CA Federation of Teachers, the  
            CA Medical Association, and local governments. According to  


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            the California Chapters of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun  
            Violence, "The California Legislature has struggled with an  
            assault weapons ban since the Stockton school yard shootings  
            in 1989. The Roberti-Roos Act was passed that year, but minor  
            changes to the named assault weapons allowed the firearm  
            industry to easily evade the intent of the law. The assault  
            weapon law was expanded in 1991 and in 1999, the Legislature  
            updated the law by banning weapons with detachable magazines  
            and one or more military style features.  However, once again  
            the industry has been able to exploit a loophole in the  
            regulations that allows for the continued sale and possession  
            of fully functional assault weapons. SB 374 seeks to  
            definitively close the loopholes in a manner that will prevent  
            the firearm industry from continuing to market these lethal  
            military style weapons in California.

            "Mass shootings perpetrated by unbalanced individuals using  
            assault weapons are reported all too often in the news.  As  
            was tragically demonstrated at Sandy Hook School, the ability  
            to rapidly reload added enormously to the carnage.  An  
            exchangeable magazine can be reloaded in one second and is the  
            key feature that enables the rapid rate of continuous fire  
            that can kill many people very quickly.  Requiring a fixed  
            magazine on future sales or transfers of long guns would, over  
            time, decrease the lethality in future mass shootings.

            "SB 374 will finally control this situation with a clear,  
            simplified, and strengthened assault weapons law.  Current  
            owners of long guns with detachable magazines will be able to  
            keep their weapons and law abiding hunters and sport shooters  
            will be minimally impacted.

           4)Opposition  includes a series of gun-related sport groups, gun  
            dealers, and the CA State Sheriffs Association. According to  
            Crossroads of the West Gun Shows, defining any semiautomatic  
            rifle that can accept a detachable magazine, or that has a  
            fixed magazine with a capacity to accept more than 10 rounds,  
            to be an assault rifle, SB 374 would ban the  sale of many  
            popular makes and models of rifles commonly used for hunting,  
            target practice, competition, recreational shooting, and other  
            lawful purposes.

            "These civilian firearms are rarely used in the commission of  
            a crime. There is no justifiable reason to ban them?.  
            Unfortunately, such people will always be able to obtain the  


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            firearms SB 374 would ban, if they want them, in the  
            underground market or from outside of California's borders."

           5)Related legislation  , SB 47 (Yee), also before this committee  
            today, is similar to SB 374 regarding its definition of fixed  
            magazines. SB 47 differs in that it maintains the current law  
            requirement that an assault weapon have one or more of the  
            specified features. SB 374 simply eliminates the requirement  
            that an assault weapon have one of the specified features on  
            the basis that these features - pistol grip, thumbhole stock,  
            folding or telescoping site, grenade or flare launcher, or  
            flash suppressor - may be imposing, but do not necessarily  
            make a weapon more lethal.


           Analysis Prepared by  :    Geoff Long / APPR. / (916) 319-2081