BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    

                                                                    AB 1673

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          Date of Hearing:  March 15, 2016
          Counsel:               Gabriel Caswell


                       Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer, Sr., Chair

                     1673 (Gipson) - As Introduced  January 19, 2016

                       As Proposed to be Amended in Committee

          SUMMARY:  Expands the definition of "firearm" to include the  
          frame or receiver of the weapon or a frame or receiver "blank,"  
          "casting" or "machined body" that is designed and clearly  
          identifiable as a component of a functional weapon, from which  
          is expelled through a barrel, a projectile by the force of an  
          explosion or other form of combustion. 
          EXISTING LAW:  

          1)Requires licensed importers and licensed manufacturers to  
            identify each firearm imported or manufactured by using the  
            serial number engraved or cast on the receiver or frame of the  
            weapon, in such manner as prescribed by the Attorney General  
            (AG).  (18 U.S.C.  923 subd. (i).)  

           2)Specifies that the United States Undetectable Firearms Act of  
            1988 makes it illegal to manufacture, import, sell, ship,  
            deliver, possess, transfer, or receive any firearm that is not  
            as detectable by walk-through metal detection as a security  
            exemplar containing 3.7 oz. of steel, or any firearm with  
            major components that do not generate an accurate image before  
            standard airport imaging technology.  (18 U.S.C.  922 subd.  


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          3)Prohibits a person, firm, or corporation licensed to  
            manufacture firearms pursuant to Chapter 44 (commencing with  
            Section 921) of Title 18 of the United States Code from  
            manufacturing firearms in California, unless the person, firm  
            or corporation is also licensed under California law (Penal  
            Code  29010).  This prohibition does not apply to a person  
            licensed under federal law, who manufactures less than 100  
            firearms a calendar year.  (Pen. Code  29010 subd. (b).)

          4)Makes it illegal to change, alter, remove, or obliterate the  
            name of the maker, model, manufacturer's number, or other mark  
            of identification on any pistol, revolver, or any other  
            firearm, without first having secured written permission from  
            the Department of Justice (DO)J to make that change,  
            alteration, or removal.  (Pen. Code  23900.)

          5)Allows the DOJ, upon request, to assign a distinguishing  
            number or mark of identification to any firearm whenever the  
            firearm lacks a manufacturer's number or other mark of  
            identification, or whenever the manufacturer's number or other  
            mark of identification, or a distinguishing number or mark  
            assigned by the department has been destroyed or obliterated.   
            (Pen. Code  23910.)

          6)Makes it a misdemeanor, with limited enumerated exceptions,  
            for any person to buy, receive, dispose of, sell, offer to  
            sell or have possession any pistol, revolver, or other firearm  
            that has had the name of the maker or model, or the  
            manufacturer's number or other mark of identification changed,  
            altered, removed, or obliterated.  (Pen. Code  23920 and  

          7)Requires a person be at least 18 years of age to purchase a  
            rifle or shotgun.  To purchase a handgun, a person must be at  
            least 21 years of age.  As part of the DROS process, the  
            purchaser must present "clear evidence of identity and age"  
            which is defined as a valid, non-expired California Driver's  
            License or Identification Card issued by the Department of  
            Motor Vehicles.  (Pen. Code  27510 and 16400.) 


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          8)Requires purchasers to present a handgun safety certificate  
            prior to the submission of DROS information for a handgun or  
            provide the dealer with proof of exemption pursuant to  
            California Penal Code Section 31700.  Beginning on January 1,  
            2015, this requirement will be extended to all firearms.   
            (Pen. Code  26840.)

          9)Requires that firearms dealers obtain certain identifying  
            information from firearms purchasers and forward that  
            information, via electronic transfer to the DOJ to perform a  
            background check on the purchaser to determine whether he or  
            she is prohibited from possessing a firearm.  (Pen. Code   

          10)Requires firearms to be centrally registered at the time of  
            transfer or sale by way of transfer forms centrally compiled  
            by the DOJ.  The DOJ is required to keep a registry from data  
            sent to the DOJ indicating who owns what firearm by make,  
            model, and serial number and the date thereof.  (Pen. Code   
            11106 subds. (a) & (c).) 

          11)Requires that, upon receipt of the purchaser's information,  
            the DOJ shall examine its records, as well as those records  
            that it is authorized to request from the State Department of  
            Mental Health pursuant to Section 8104 of the Welfare and  
            Institutions Code, in order to determine if the purchaser is  
            prohibited from purchasing a firearm because of a prior felony  
            conviction or because they had previously purchased a handgun  
            within the last 30 days, or because they had received  
            inpatient treatment for a mental health disorder, as  
            specified.  (Pen. Code  28220.) 

          12)Allows the DOJ to require the dealer to charge each firearm  
            purchaser a fee not to exceed $14, except that the fee may be  
            increased at a rate not to exceed any increase in the  
            California Consumer Price Index as compiled and reported by  
            the Department of Industrial Relations.  This fee, known as  
            the Dealer's Record of Sale Entry System  (DROS or DROS fee),  
            shall be no more than is necessary to fund specific codified  
            costs.  (Pen. Code  28225.)

          13)Provides the AG shall establish and maintain an online  


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            database to be known as the Prohibited Armed Persons File.   
            The purpose of the file is to cross-reference persons who have  
            ownership or possession of a firearm on or after January 1,  
            1991, as indicated by a record in the Consolidated Firearms  
            Information System, and who, subsequent to the date of that  
            ownership or possession of a firearm, fall within a class of  
            persons who are prohibited from owning or possessing a  
            firearm.  (Pen. Code  30000.) 
          FISCAL EFFECT:  Unknown


          1)Author's Statement:  According to the author, "AB 1673 will  
            expand the definition of a firearm, to include "unfinished  
            frames and receivers", which will close a dangerous loophole  
            that allows anyone to sell, trade and manufacture in  
            partial-completion the only part of a firearm that is subject  
            to serial-number identification and registration. The change  
            will treat unfinished receivers and frames the same way a  
            finished receiver is treated, and require background checks in  
            order to be sold, prohibit them from the possession of the  
            mentally ill and convicted felons, and require mandatory  
            serial number application. This expanded definition will not  
            affect the activities of gun manufacturers or home  
            firearm-crafting enthusiasts. Gun manufacturers and home  
            firearm-crafting enthusiasts will however be required to  
            register their firearms as they manufacture them."

          2)Lower Receivers:  There are no provisions in existing law that  
            prevents a person from buying an 80% lower receiver and then  
            making it into a fully functional firearm.  According to  
            Tactical Machining, "An 80% Receiver is a partially completed  
            piece of material that requires special tooling and skills to  
            be completed and considered a firearm."   
            (  .)   
            Because 80% lower receivers are not considered firearms, a  
            person purchasing them does not have to go through a federal  
            firearms dealer, and does not have to undergo a background  
            check.  Additionally, according to the Bureau of Alcohol,  


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            Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) "firearms that began as  
            receiver blanks have been recovered after shooting incidents,  
            from gang members and from prohibited people after they have  
            been used to commit crimes."  
            ceiver-blanks-been-recovered-after-being-used-crime.)   "ATF  
            successfully traces crime guns to the first retail purchaser  
            in most instances. ATF starts with the manufacturer and goes  
            through the entire chain of distribution to find who first  
            bought the firearm from a licensed dealer. Because receiver  
            blanks do not have markings or serial numbers, when firearms  
            made from such receiver blanks are found at a crime scene, it  
            is usually not possible to trace the firearm or determine its  
            history, which hinders crime gun investigations jeopardizing  
            public safety."  

           3)Amendments Taken in Committee to Avoid Vagueness:  As  
            currently written the bill is arguably vague.  Laws which are  
            so vague that a person is unable to determine whether they are  
            in violation of the law may be held "void for vagueness" by  
            courts.  The concept was articulated by Supreme Court Justice  
            Sutherland as the following:  
               "[T]he terms of a penal statute [...] must be sufficiently  
               explicit to inform those who are subject to it what conduct  
               on their part will render them liable to its penalties? and  
               a statute which either forbids or requires the doing of an  
               act in terms so vague that men of common intelligence must  
               necessarily guess at its meaning and differ as to its  
               application violates the first essential of due process of  
               law."  Connaly v. General Construction Co., 269 U.S. 285  

            In this case, a felon in possession of a block of metal could  
            arguably be found to be a felon in possession of a firearm.   
            This crime holds relatively serious consequences in  
            California.  The term "readily converted to the functional  
            condition" is arguably vague and overbroad.  The author should  
            consider amendments to be more specific in the definition of  
            what constitutes a lower receiver or unfinished frame.    


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            The author has agreed to take amendments that include a much  
            more definite description of the items which will constitute a  
            firearm under the provisions of the bill.  Unlike the prior  
            version of the bill, these amendments make it clear that the  
            objects in question must be "clearly identifiable as a  
            component of a functional weapon."

          4)Santa Monica Shooting:  According to a July 15, 2013, briefing  
            prepared by the Minority Staff of the Committee on Energy and  
            Commerce, United States House of Representatives: 

               On June 7, 2013, John Zawahri, 23, killed five people  
               and injured several more during a shooting rampage  
               that lasted approximately 13 minutes in Santa Monica,  
               California.  He first shot and killed his father,  
               Samir Zawahri, and brother, Christopher, at their  
               home.  He then pulled over and carjacked Laurie Sisk,  
               forcing her to drive at gunpoint to Santa Monica  
               College.  Zawahri shot at numerous cars, pedestrians,  
               and a bus en route, killing the college's  
               groundskeeper, Carlos Franco, and his daughter,  
               Marcela.  Upon arriving at the campus, he then fatally  
               shot another woman, Margarita Gomez.  He then entered  
               the school library, where he attempted to kill several  
               library patrons who were hiding in a safe room.   
               Police, who had been alerted to the shooting and to  
               Zawahri's location by numerous 911 calls, exchanged  
               gunfire in the library with the shooter and pronounced  
               him dead at the scene.  According to authorities,  
               Zawahri fired approximately 100 rounds in total.

               Zawahri had a history of mental illness.  In 2006, a  
               teacher at his high school discovered Zawahri  
               researching assault weapons online.  School officials  
               contacted the police and he was subsequently admitted  


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               to the psychiatric ward at the University of  
               California, Los Angeles Medical Center.  Zawahri  
               attempted to buy a weapon in 2011, but a background  
               check conducted by the California Department of  
               Justice found him ineligible and denied the purchase.   
               The reasons for this denial have not been publicly  


               Zawahri used a modified AR-15 rifle in the shooting  
               and also carried a .44-caliber handgun.  He possessed  
               more than 1,300 rounds of ammunition.  The AR-15 rifle  
               is the same type of gun used in the mass shootings  
               that occurred in Aurora, Colorado, and Newtown,  
               Connecticut.  The AR-15 firearm held 30 rounds.   
               California state law bans the sale of AR-15 rifles  
               with a magazine capacity greater than ten rounds.   
               Authorities believe that Zawahri assembled his AR-15  
               rifle using parts he bought in pieces from a number of  
               different sources, including an 80% completed lower  
               receiver.  Police found a drill press at Zawahri's  
               home, a tool that can make holes in the lower receiver  
               to complete the weapon.  (Citations Omitted.)  

          5)Governor's Veto Message of 2013's SB 808 (De Leon):  SB 808  
            required serial numbers on lower receivers.  The governor  
            vetoed the bill with the following message:  
            "I am returning Senate Bill 808 without my signature.

            "SB 808 would require individuals who build guns at home to  
            first obtain a serial number and register the weapon with the  
            Department of Justice.

            "I appreciate the author's concerns about gun violence, but I  
            can't see how adding a serial number to a homemade gun would  
            significantly advance public safety."


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          6)Argument in Support:  According to the California Chapters of  
            the Brady Campaign, " In furtherance of our goal to reduce  
            firearm violence in our communities, the California Brady  
            Campaign Chapters support AB 1673, introduced by  
            Assemblymember Mike Gipson.  The bill addresses an alarming  
            development in California that threatens public safety.
            "A priority policy objective for the California Brady Campaign  
            is to ensure that every firearm owner has passed a background  
            check and that all firearm transfers include a thorough  
            background check, 10-day waiting period, and a record of the  
            transaction that includes the serial number of the firearm.   
            There have been numerous studies indicating that these  
            requirement are good strategies for reducing gun violence and  
            clearly, they further our core goal of keeping weapons out of  
            dangerous hands.  Although existing California law requires  
            background checks and the retention of transfer records,  
            people have found that they can avoid these requirements and  
            other California gun laws by creating and marketing partially  
            complete or "80 percent" lower receivers or frames.  According  
            to media reports and law enforcement, there is a growing  
            number of firearms assembled from partially complete receivers  
            and fames and these firearms are increasingly used in crime.   
            AB 1673 will address this problem.

            "The lower receiver is that part of a long gun that contains  
            the trigger, firing pin, and ammunition feeding mechanisms.   
            They are treated the same as a long gun and are currently  
            legally available, provided that the purchaser passes a  
            background check, the lower receiver has a serial number, and  
            a record of the purchase is created.  Similarly, a frame for a  
            pistol is treated as a handgun and has a serial number.   
            However, partially complete or "80 percent" lower receivers  
            and frames are not considered to be firearms, but with a few  
            simple modifications, they can become fully functional.  A  
            person with a drill press can easily drill the necessary holes  
            to complete the receiver or frame and advances in 3D printing  
            technology is increasing the availability of unfinished lower  
            receivers and frames.  Firearms assembled from these partially  
            complete lower receivers and frames are untraceable for law  


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            "AB 1673 will deal with this problem by expanding the  
            definition of firearms to include unfinished frames and  
            receivers that can be readily converted to the functional  
            condition of a finished frame or receiver. The Brady Campaign  
            supports this concept and believes that weapons assembled from  
            unfinished lower receivers and frames should be subject to the  
            full extent of the law.  Determining at what point a piece of  
            metal or other material should be considered a firearm is  
            difficult to establish, but the 'readily converted' standard,  
            with, perhaps, more definition, is a good approach.  

            "The shooter in the 2013 Santa Monica shooting, in which six  
            people were killed, was prohibited from purchasing firearms.   
            Instead, he machined himself an AR-15-type semiautomatic rifle  
            from an aluminum partial lower receiver.  This is an example  
            of why it is essential that guns assembled from partial lower  
            receivers and frames be regulated.  AB 1673 will help keep  
            weapons out of the hands of those considered at risk of  
            violence, such as criminals, children, and persons with severe  
            mental illness.  Accordingly, the California Brady Campaign  
            Chapters are in strong support of AB 1673 and urge your AYE  

          7)Argument in Opposition:  According to the Firearms Policy  
            Coalition, "AB 1673 would change the definition of a firearm  
            to include things that are not firearms.  
            "In the interest of clarity, and because the best comedy  
            requires no punchline, we offer here the entire substance of  
            AB 1673 (amending  16520(b) of the Penal Code): 

               "As used in the following provisions, 'firearm' includes  
               the finished frame or receiver of a weapon, or the  
               unfinished frame or receiver of a weapon that can be  
               readily converted to the functional condition of a finished  
               frame or receiver?

            "(Note the obvious lack of definition for the new term of art,  


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            'unfinished frame or receiver of a weapon that can be readily  
            converted to the functional condition of a finished frame or  

            "AB 1673 is as dangerous as it is Orwellian in its linguistic  
            dissonance, creating severe new penalties for non-violent  
            crimes with what amounts to paperweights by calling things  
            firearms that are not actually firearms. 

            "Given that 'readily convertible' is a function of time,  
            skill, knowledge, experience, and access to tools,  
            information, materials, and equipment (stamps, molds,  
            mandrels, hydraulic presses, jigs, drills, mills, rivets,  
            welders, sandblasters, software, blueprints, CNC machines,  
            computer numerical control routers, raw materials, etc.), one  
            must wonder if AB 1673 is simply lazy or purposefully hostile  
            to people with access to tools, information, knowledge, and  
            commodity materials.

            "In order to comply with AB 1673, non-firearm firearms would  
            need to be taken to and transferred through a licensed (real)  
            firearms dealer.  These 'readily convertible' pieces of  
            plastic, wood, aluminum, iron, or steel would then need to be  
            entered into the California Department of Justice (DOJ)  
            Dealer's Record of Sale Entry System (DROS DES) in order to  
            provide the DOJ with the information required to register the  
            non-firearm with the state.  (Can you imagine what the DOJ's  
            DROS DES technical support logs will look like after AB 1673?)

            "Unfortunately for Assemblymember Gipson, the DOJ's systems  
            are designed for actual firearms.  AB 1673 would necessitate  
            the promulgation of new regulations as well as costly  
            modifications to DOJ's many systems and databases.  (While the  
            cost of doing as much would certainly be substantial,  
            California would at least have bragging rights to the first  
            non-firearm firearm database in the known history of the  

            "Adding insult to injury, following the entry of the  
            non-firearm firearm into the DROS system, the non-firearm  
            firearm owner would then be required to wait at least 10 days  
            (and up to 30) to take possession of their non-firearm firearm  


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            from the transferring dealer.  

            "And should the non-firearm firearm owner ever be found or  
            thought to be prohibited from firearm possession, the person  
            would be placed into the DOJ's failed Armed Prohibited Persons  
            system so DOJ agents or local law enforcement could confiscate  
            the non-firearm firearm."  
          8)Related Legislation:  SB 1407 (De Leon), requires a person who  
            manufactures or assembles a firearm to first apply to the DOJ  
            for a unique serial number or other identifying mark. Requires  
            any person who owns a firearm that does not bear a serial  
            number to likewise apply to the department for a unique serial  
            number or other mark of identification.  Prohibits the sale or  
            transfer of ownership of a firearm manufactured or assembled  
            pursuant to these provisions. Prohibits a person from aiding  
            in the manufacture or assembly of a firearm by a person who is  
                                       prohibited from possessing a firearm.  SB 1407 has been  
            referred to Senate Rules Committee for further assignment.  

          9)Prior Legislation:  SB 808 (De Leon) of the 2013-2014  
            legislative session, required a person, commencing January 1,  
            2016, to apply to and obtain from the Department of Justice  
            (DOJ) a unique serial number or other mark of identification  
            prior to manufacturing or assembling a firearm.  SB 808 was  
            vetoed by the governor.  



          California Chapters of the Brady Campaign 
          California Civil Liberties Advocacy
          Coalition Against Gun Violence 
          Firearms Policy Coalition 
          Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence 


          California Association of Federal Firearms Licensees 
          California Sportsmen's Lobby 
          Crossroads of the West Gun Shows 


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          Firearms Policy Coalition
          National Rifle Association
          National Shooting Sports Foundation 
          Outdoor Sportsmen's Coalition of California  
          Safari Club International 

          One private individual. 
          Analysis Prepared  
          by:              Gabriel Caswell / PUB. S. / (916) 319-3744