BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    







                      SENATE COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC SAFETY
                            Senator Loni Hancock, Chair              S
                             2013-2014 Regular Session               B

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          SB 683 (Block)                                              
          As Amended April 1, 2013 
          Hearing date:  April 16, 2013
          Penal Code
          SM:dl

                             FIREARMS SAFETY CERTIFICATES  

                                       HISTORY

          Source:  Author

          Prior Legislation:SB 52 (Scott) - Ch. 942. Stats. 2001 


          Support: California Chapters of the Brady Campaign to Prevent  
                   Gun Violence; California Church Impact; Youth Alive!;  
                   Moms Demand for Gun Sense in America (San Francisco Bay  
                   Area Chapter); Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence;  
                   South County Citizens Against Gun Violence; Laguna  
                   Woods Democratic Club; Violence Prevention Coalition;  
                   CLUE California; California Church Impact; Doctors for  
                   America; PICO California; Christy Lynne Wilson  
                   Foundation; Bend the Arc: Jewish Partnership for  
                   Justice; Courage Campaign; Moms Demand Action for Gun  
                   Sense in America; several individual letters  

          Opposition:California Association of Federal Firearms Licensees;  
                   National Rifle Association; California Rifle and Pistol  
                   Association; letters and phone calls from several  
                   individuals






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                                         KEY ISSUE
           
          SHOULD THE REQUIREMENTS IN CURRENT LAW THAT ALL HANDGUN PURCHASERS  
          OBTAIN A HANDGUN SAFETY CERTIFICATE PRIOR TO TAKING POSSESSION OF  
          THE HANDGUN BE EXTENDED TO ALL FIREARMS?


                                          



                                       PURPOSE

          The purpose of this bill is to extend to all firearms the  
          requirements in current law that all handgun purchasers obtain a  
          handgun safety certificate prior to taking possession of the  
          handgun and to make conforming changes to statutes regarding  
          handgun safety certificates.


           Current law  provides that no person shall do either of the  
          following:

                 Purchase or receive any handgun, except an antique  
               firearm, without a valid handgun safety certificate.
                 Sell, deliver, loan, or transfer any handgun, except an  
               antique firearm, to any person who does not have a valid  
               handgun safety certificate.
                 Any person who violates subdivision (a) is guilty of a  
               misdemeanor, punishable by up to 6 months in county jail, a  
               fine of up to $1,000, or both.

          (Penal Code section 31615.)

           Current law  requires the license applicant to complete and pass  
          a written test prescribed by the DOJ and administered by an  
          instructor certified by DOJ.  The test shall include:





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                           The laws applicable to carrying and handling  
                    firearms, particularly handguns;
                           The responsibilities of ownership of firearms,  
                    particularly handguns;
                           Current law as it relates to the sale and  
                    transfer of firearms laws;
                           Current law as it relates to the permissible  
                    use of lethal force; 
                           What constitutes safe firearm storage;
                           Risks associated with bringing handguns into  
                    the home; and,
                           Prevention strategies to address issues  
                    associated with bringing firearms into the home.  

          (Penal Code section 31640.)

           Current law  exempts an honorably retired member of the United  
          States Armed Forces, the National Guard, the Air National Guard,  
          or active reserve components of the United States from having to  
          obtain a handgun safety certificate in order to purchase a  
          handgun.  (Penal Code Section 31700(a)(1).)

           



          Current law  provides that the Department of Justice shall  
          develop handgun safety certificates to be issued by instructors  
          certified by the department, to those persons who have complied  
          with specified requirements.  A handgun safety certificate shall  
          include, but not be limited to, the following information:

                 A unique handgun safety certificate identification  
               number.
                 The holder's full name.
                 The holder's date of birth.
                 The holder's driver's license or identification number.
                 The holder's signature.
                 The signature of the issuing instructor.




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                 The date of issuance.

          The handgun safety certificate shall expire five years after the  
          date that it was issued by the certified instructor.  (Penal  
          Code section 31655.)
           
          Current law  requires licensed firearms dealers to post  
          conspicuously within the licensed premises a detailed list of  
          each of the following:

          All charges required by governmental agencies for processing  
          firearm transfers required by:

                 Section 12806, 
                 Chapter 5 (commencing with Section 28050), and
                 Article 3 (commencing with Section 28200) of Chapter 6.
          All fees that the licensee charges pursuant to 
                 Section 12806 and 
                 Chapter 5 (commencing with Section 28050).

           Current law  states that licensed firearms dealers shall not  
          misstate the amount of fees charged by a governmental agency  
          pursuant to 
                 Section 12806, 
                 Chapter 5 (commencing with Section 28050), and 
                 Article 3 (commencing with Section 28200) of Chapter 6.

          (Penal Code section 26880.)

           This bill  would extend to all firearms the requirements in  
          current law that all handgun purchasers obtain a handgun safety  
          certificate prior to taking possession of the handgun.  This  
          bill would also make conforming changes to statutes regarding  
          handgun safety certificates.









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                    RECEIVERSHIP/OVERCROWDING CRISIS AGGRAVATION

          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 which 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.  ROCA necessitated many hard and  
          difficult decisions for the Committee.

          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 to reduce the state's prison population to  
          137.5 percent of design capacity.  The State submitted in part  
          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, who oppose the state's  
          motion, argue in part that, "California prisons, which currently  
          average 150% of capacity, and reach as high as 185% of capacity  




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          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 % prisoner  
          population cap by December 31st of this year. 





































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          The ongoing litigation indicates that prison capacity and  
          related issues concerning conditions of confinement remain  
          unsettled.  However, in light of the real gains in reducing the  
          prison population that have been made, although even greater  
          reductions are required by the court, the Committee will review  
          each ROCA bill with more flexible consideration.  The following  
          questions will inform this consideration:

                 whether a measure erodes realignment;
                 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.


                                      COMMENTS

          1.  Need For This Bill  

          According to the author:

               It is important that the State of California ensures  
               that everyone who buys a firearm is a responsible  
               gun-owner with demonstrated knowledge of safe handling  
               and gun laws. Currently, California requires potential  
               handgun owners to take and pass a safety certificate  
               test designed to ensure that the buyer understands the  
               law and knows how to safely handle a handgun. To buy a  
               long gun, however, a buyer is not required to show  
               that he or she is proficient in the safe handling of  
               the gun or knows the laws associated with the long  
               gun.





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               Expanding the Safety Certificate to include long guns  
               ensures that everyone who buys a firearm is an  
               educated and responsible gun-owner. A long gun can be  
               a dangerous weapon without knowledge of proper  
               handling procedures. First-time buyers are often not  
               aware of the proper and safe handling of a firearm.  
               They are also frequently unaware of California's  
               complicated firearm laws.

               This bill seeks to increase the number of responsible  
               gun owners by requiring a Firearm Safety Certificate  
               to buy any firearm. This will increase the knowledge  
               gun owners have regarding their own weapons for the  
               purpose of encouraging responsible gun ownership and  
               use, and preventing accidents from happening.

          2.  Handgun Safety Certificates  

          Beginning in 1993, possession of a handgun safety certificate  
          was required to transfer firearms. The Department of Justice was  
          required to create the requisite process to obtain a handgun  
          safety certificate. Exemptions were provided for specified  
          classes of persons who did not need to either successfully take  
          the course or challenge the course with a specified exam. 

          SB 52 (Scott), Chapter 942, Statutes of 2001, repealed the Basic  
          Firearms Safety and Certificate Program and replaced that  
          program with the more stringent Handgun Safety Licensing  
          Program.  SB 52 provided that, effective January 1, 2003, no  
          person may purchase, transfer, receive, or sell a handgun  
          without a Handgun Safety Certificate (HSC).  

          This bill would extend what is currently a requirement for  
          handgun buyers to learn basic safety and laws regarding handguns  
          to instead include this requirement to buyers of all firearms.  
          The subjects covered would be:

                           The laws applicable to carrying and handling  
                    firearms, particularly handguns;











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                           The responsibilities of ownership of firearms,  
                    particularly handguns;
                           Current law as it relates to the sale and  
                    transfer of firearms laws;
                           Current law as it relates to the permissible  
                    use of lethal force; 
                           What constitutes safe firearm storage;
                           Risks associated with bringing a firearm into  
                    the home; and,
                           Prevention strategies to address issues  
                    associated with bringing firearms into the home. 

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