BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



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          Date of Hearing:   March 1, 2016
          Counsel:               Sandra Uribe


                         ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC SAFETY


                                  Bill Quirk, Chair





          AB  
                     1664 (Levine) - As Introduced  January 14, 2016




          SUMMARY:  Redefines what constitutes an assault weapon in order  
          to close the bullet button loophole.  Also requires registration  
          of weapons (which were previously not prohibited) which now fall  
          under the new definition.  Specifically, this bill:  

          1)States legislative intent to effectuate the Roberti-Roos  
            Assault Weapons Control Act of 1989 and to close the bullet  
            button loophole by redefining "detachable magazine."

          2)Defines a "detachable magazine" as "an ammunition feeding  
            device that can be removed readily from the firearm without  
            disassembly of the firearm action, including an ammunition  
            feeding device that can be removed readily from the firearm  
            with the use of a tool."

          3)Provides that, notwithstanding the new definition of assault  
            weapon contained in this bill, the penalties for the  
            possession of an assault weapon under this provision shall not  
            apply to any person who initially possessed such a weapon  
            before January 1, 2017, and until July 1, 2018, if both of the  
            following are applicable:

             a)   During the person's possession, he or she was eligible  








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               to register that assault weapon, as specified; and,

             b)   The person lawfully possessed that assault weapon before  
               January 1, 2017.

          4)Provides that any person who, from January 1, 2001, to  
            December 31, 2016, 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 firearm with the use of a  
            tool, shall register the firearm with the Department of  
            Justice (DOJ) before July 1, 2018, pursuant to DOJ-established  
            procedures.

          5)Requires registrations be submitted electronically via the  
            Internet utilizing a public-facing application made available  
            by the DOJ.

          6)Mandates that the registration contain a description of the  
            firearm which identifies it uniquely, including:  all  
            identification marks; the date the firearm was acquired; the  
            name and address of the individual from whom, or business from  
            which, the firearm was acquired; and the registrant's full  
            name, address, telephone number, date of birth, sex, height,  
            weight, eye color, hair color, and California driver's license  
            number or California identification card number.

          7)Allows the DOJ to charge a registration fee, not to exceed the  
            reasonable processing costs, payable by debit or credit card  
            at the time of submission of the electronic registration.  The  
            fee shall be deposited in the Dealers' Record of Sale Special  
            Account.

          8)Requires the DOJ to establish registration procedures and  
            exempts these procedures from the Administrative Procedure  
            Act.

          EXISTING LAW:  

          1)Contains legislative findings and declarations that the  
            proliferation and use of assault and .50 BMG rifles poses a  
            threat to the health, safety, and security of all citizens of  








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            California.  (Pen. Code,  30505.)

          2)States legislative intent to place restrictions on the use of  
            assault weapons and .50 BMG rifles and to establish a  
            registration and permit procedure for their lawful sale and  
            possession.  (Pen. Code,  30505.)

          3)Prohibits several categories of assault weapons:

             a)   Specified firearms listed by name and others listed by  
               series (Pen. Code,  30510); 

             b)   Semiautomatic centerfire rifles or semiautomatic pistols  
               having the capacity to accept a detachable magazine and  
               also having one of several specified characteristics; 

             c)   Semiautomatic centerfire rifles or semiautomatic pistols  
               with a fixed magazine having the capacity to hold more than  
               10 rounds; 

             d)   Semiautomatic centerfire rifles with an overall length  
               of less than 30 inches; 

             e)   Semiautomatic shotguns having two specified  
               characteristics; 

             f)   Semiautomatic shotguns having the capacity to accept a  
               detachable magazine; and,

             g)   Any shotgun with a revolving cylinder.  (Pen. Code,   
               30515.)

          4)Defines 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.  Ammunition feeding device includes any  
            belted or linked ammunition, but does not include clips, en  
            bloc clips, or stripper clips that load cartridges into the  
            magazine.  (11 Cal. Code Regs. Section 5469.)

          5)Bans the manufacture, distribution, transportation,  








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            importation, sale, gift or loan of an assault weapon.  (Pen.  
            Code,  30600, subd. (a).)

          6)Makes the possession of an assault weapon a criminal offense,  
            subject to certain exceptions.  (Pen. Code,  30605.)

          7)Defines a ".50 BMG rifle" as "a center fire rifle that can  
            fire a .50 BMG cartridge and is not already an assault weapon  
            or a machinegun."  (Pen. Code,  30530.)

          8)Bans the manufacture, distribution, transportation,  
            importation, sale, gift, loan, or possession of .50 BMG  
            rifles.  (Pen. Code  30600 & 30610.) 

          9)Exempts the DOJ, law enforcement agencies, military forces,  
            and other specified agencies from the prohibition against  
            sales to, purchase by, importation of, or possession of  
            assault weapons or .50 BMG rifles.  (Pen. Code,  30625.)

          10)Requires that any person who lawfully possesses an assault  
            weapon prior to the date it was specified as an assault weapon  
            to register the firearm with DOJ, as specified.  (Pen. Code,   
            30900 et. seq.)

          FISCAL EFFECT:  Unknown

          COMMENTS:  

          1)Author's Statement:  According to the author, "Killing  
            machines have no place on our streets and gun violence must  
            not be tolerated.  This legislation closes a loophole in law  
            that allows military-style assault rifles to be sold legally  
            in California.  We raise our children in communities, not war  
            zones."

          2)Bullet Button:   California law bans semiautomatic rifles with  
            the capacity to accept a detachable ammunition magazine and  
            which also have any one of six enumerated weapon  
            characteristics (e.g., folding stock, flash suppressor, pistol  
            grip, or other military-style features).  The term 'detachable  
            magazine' is not defined in statute.  In response, firearm  
            manufacturers have developed a new feature to make  








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            military-style weapons compliant in California, the bullet  
            button.  

          The bullet button is a "device allows gun owners to pop out  
            their magazines quickly by inserting the tip of a bullet or  
            some other small tool into a button on the side of their  
            weapons.  Since the magazine requires a tool to release it --  
            and cannot be released by hand -- it is not considered  
            'detachable' under California law."   
            (<  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/
          20/us/lessons-in-politics-and-fine-print-in-assault-weapons-ban-o 
            f-90s.html?pagewanted=
          all&_r=1&  >.)   

          This bill amends the statute defining assault weapons by  
            defining a detachable magazine as "an ammunition feeding  
            device that can be removed readily from the firearm without  
            disassembly of the firearm action, including an ammunition  
            feeding device that can be removed readily with the use of a  
            tool."  The purpose of this change is to clarify that  
            equipping a weapon with a bullet button magazine release does  
            not take that weapon outside of the definition of an assault  
            weapon.

          3)Governor's Veto Message:  In 2013, the Legislature passed SB  
            374 (Steinberg) which attempted to close the bullet button  
            loophole by redefining an assault weapon.  SB 374 required a  
            fixed magazine, but eliminated the six prohibited features  
            from the definition in current law.  However, SB 374 was  
            vetoed by the Governor.  In his veto message, the Governor  
            said, "The State of California already has some of the  
            strictest gun laws in the country, including bans on  
            military-style assault rifles and high-capacity ammunition  
            magazines.

          "While the author's intent is to strengthen these restrictions,  
            this bill goes much farther by banning any semi-automatic  
            rifle with a detachable magazine. This ban covers low-capacity  
            rifles that are commonly used for hunting, firearms training,  
            and marksmanship practice, as well as some historical and  
            collectible firearms. Moreover, hundreds of thousands of  
            current gun owners would have to register their rifles as  








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            assault weapons and would be banned from selling or  
            transferring them in the future."
          
          4)Second Amendment:  The Second Amendment to the federal  
            Constitution provides, "A well regulated militia being  
            necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the  
            people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."  In  
            District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) 554 U.S. 570, the United  
            States Supreme Court held that the Second Amendment protects  
            an individual's right to possess and carry weapons in case of  
            confrontation.  The Court struck down a law banning possession  
            of handguns in the home.  Subsequently, in McDonald v. City of  
            Chicago (2010) 561 U.S. 742, the Court held that Second  
            Amendment rights are applicable to the states.  The majority  
            found the individual right to bear arms, particularly for  
            self-defense was fundamental.  

          However, the Second Amendment does not afford an unlimited right  
            to own a weapon.  As the Court explained in Heller, the right  
            "to keep and carry arms" is limited to weapons "in common  
            use."  (Heller, supra, 554 U.S. at p. 627.)  At least one  
            court has held that Heller does not invalidate the statute  
            prohibiting the possession of assault rifles.  (See People v.  
            James (2009) 174 Cal.App.4th 662, 676.)  Moreover, in Heller,  
            the United States Supreme Court did not strike down neutral  
            licensing and registration as a condition of possession and  
            the Court also enumerated examples of presumptively valid  
            government regulation of firearms.
          
          5)Registration Provisions:  This bill would not prohibit the  
            possession of any firearm that is currently legally owned.   
            This bill would require that the owner of a firearm that is  
            currently not considered an assault weapon, but which would be  
            deemed such under the new definition, to register the firearm  
            with the DOJ before July 1, 2018.  In this manner, this bill  
            would avoid  takings issues because the owner of a weapon  
            which had been legally acquired does not have to relinquish  
            it.
          
          6)Argument in Support:  According to the Law Center to Prevent  
            Gun Violence, "The ability to accept a detachable magazine  
            allows a shooter to quickly reload an assault weapon to  








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            continue firing and killing without interruption.

          "California's assault weapons ban does not define the term  
            'detachable magazine,' however.  Perplexingly, current DOJ  
            regulations define 'detachable magazine' in a manner that runs  
            counter to both the spirit and the letter of the state's  
            assault weapons ban.  Under these regulations' definition, a  
            weapon is not considered to have a detachable magazine, and is  
            therefore not a prohibited assault weapon, if a 'tool' is used  
            to release the firearm's magazine instead of a shooter's  
            finger alone.  The regulations specifically state that 'a  
            bullet or an ammunition feeding device is considered a tool.'


            "The gun industry has exploited this bizarre and dangerous  
            loophole in recent years by marketing 'California compliant'  
            assault weapons that are equipped with a 'bullet button.'   
            These weapons are the functional equivalents of illegal  
            assault weapons in every respect, except that the shooter uses  
            a bullet, instead of his or her finger, to depress the button  
            that releases the weapon's magazine?.

            "AB 1664 would further the letter and the spirit of  
            California's assault weapons law by adding a statutory  
            definition of 'detachable magazine' to clarify that the bullet  
            button weapons are illegal assault weapons."

          7)Arguments in Opposition:  

             a)   The California Sportsman's Lobby states, "By defining,  
               for purpose of the definition of an assault weapon, a  
               detachable magazine to be a magazine (ammunition feeding  
               device) that can be removed without disassembly of a  
               firearm's action, including a magazine that can be removed  
               readily from a firearm with the use of a too (such as a  
               bullet button magazine), this bill would further expand the  
               definition of an assault weapon and would thus ban the  
               future sale of many modern sporting rifles commonly used  
               for hunting, firearms training, including hunter safety  
               training, and marksmanship practice.

             "There is no justifiable reason to ban them.








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             "A ban on future sales of these popular sporting rifles by  
               defining them to be assault weapons would only serve to  
               deny California sportsmen quality rifles.

             "The focus of the Legislature should not be on firearms, but  
               on the people who actually do commit crimes involving the  
               use or possession of firearms such as criminals, the  
               mentally ill, and users of mind altering drugs and other  
               substances."

             b)   According to the National Rifle Association, "AB 1664  
               would subject the state to unnecessary litigation.  In  
               District of Columbia v. Heller, 128 S.Ct. 2783 (2008), the  
               Supreme Court explained in detail that the Second Amendment  
               prohibits government from banning the possession of arms  
               'typically possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful  
               purposes' or 'those in common use.'  Id. at 624-25.  By  
               banning what amounts to millions of the most common hunting  
               and sporting rifles, AB 1663 (sic) clearly conflicts with  
               this direct guidance from the Supreme Court and is thus  
               plainly unconstitutional. "

          8)Related Legislation:  AB 1663 (Chiu) takes a different  
            approach to closing the bullet button loophole.  AB 1663 will  
            be heard by this committee today.

          9)Prior Legislation:  

             a)   SB 47 (Yee), of the 2013-2014 Legislative Session, would  
               have closed the bullet button loophole by redefining an  
               assault weapon in statute as 'a semiautomatic, centerfire  
               rifle that does not have a fixed magazine' and has any one  
               of several specified features.  SB 47 was held on the  
               Assembly Appropriations Committee suspense file.


             b)   SB 374 (Steinberg), of the 2013-2014 Legislative  
               Session, would have closed the bullet button loophole by  
               redefining an assault weapon as it pertains to rifles and  
               defines "detachable magazines" and "fixed magazines."   
               Specifies that rifles which are not assault weapons have  








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               fixed magazines.  SB 347 was vetoed by the Governor.

             c)   SB 249 (Yee), of the 2011-12 Legislative Session, would  
               have prohibited any person from importing, making, selling,  
               loaning, transferring or possessing any conversion kit  
               designed to convert certain firearms with a fixed magazine  
               into firearms with a detachable magazine.  SB 249 was held  
               in the Assembly Appropriations Committee suspense file.

          REGISTERED SUPPORT / OPPOSITION:
          
          Support

          Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence - California Chapters
          Cleveland School Remembers
          Coalition Against Gun Violence
          Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence

          Opposition
          
          California Sportsman's Lobby
          California State Sheriffs' Association
          Crossroads of the West Gun Shows
          Firearms Policy Coalition
          National Rifle Association of America
          National Shooting Sports Foundation
          Outdoor Sportsmen's Coalition of California
          Safari Club International

          Two private individuals

          Analysis Prepared  
          by:              Sandy Uribe / PUB. S. / (916) 319-3744

















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