California Assault Weapon Bill Gains Strength

August 06, 2012

Senator Yee, AG Harris: Loophole puts public at risk, undermines state’s assault weapon law
SACRAMENTO – While California may have some of strongest gun control laws in the country, gun manufacturers are getting around one the state’s most important assault weapon laws.

Interpretation of existing law allows for the sale of semi-automatic weapons with easily detachable magazines. Similar styled weapons were used in the Aurora, Colorado massacre and may have been used in yesterday’s tragedy in Wisconsin.

Today, Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco/San Mateo) will introduce amendments to his SB 249 that will strengthen the bill by ensuring California law prohibits assault weapons with pistol grips, telescoping stock, or certain other features from being easily reloaded with multiple rounds of ammunition.

“When California enacted our assault weapon law there was no intention of allowing such easily changeable magazines on military style weapons,” said Yee. “While SB 249 will not prevent all acts of senseless violence, it will close this loophole and help protect public safety.”

Yee’s bill has now garnered the support of California’s top cop, Attorney General Kamala Harris.

“In recent years, the gun industry has developed a loophole that undermines California's assault weapons law,” said Harris. “I applaud the Legislature's interest in addressing this problem, and support efforts to pass legislation needed to restore the law's original intent. The Bureau of Firearms stands ready to prepare and implement regulations that will follow this clarifying legislation.”

Several legislators have also already signed on as co-authors including Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), Senator Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), Senator Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley), Senator Ted Lieu (D-Torrence), Assemblyman Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge), and Assemblyman Mike Feuer (D-Los Angeles).

Specifically, Yee’s bill will prohibit featured assault weapons with ammunition feeding devices that include but are not limited to magazines “that may be detached from the firearm by depressing a button on the firearm either with the finger or by use of a tool or bullet.” The bill will also direct the Attorney General’s office to develop new regulations regarding the definition of assault weapons.

“The horror in Aurora sadly reminds us of the carnage that is possible when assault weapons get into the wrong hands,” said Yee. “While most gun owners are law-abiding, it is a fact that such weapons are more likely to be used to kill an innocent person than used in self-defense. One only needs to look at England, Japan, and other nations with strict gun access to see that these types of gun control laws are effective in preventing gun-related homicides.”

“We must stop unscrupulous gun manufacturers from circumventing California’s Assault Weapons Ban by modifying them with ‘bullet buttons,’” said Amanda Wilcox, Legislation and Policy Chair for the California Brady Campaign. “In California, you can now buy the ‘bullet button’ version of the AR-15 used by the Aurora shooter to gun down 70 people in a movie theater.”

As a result of the current loophole, Josh Sugarmann of the Violence Policy Center recently told CBS 5 in San Francisco that “the California assault weapons ban basically doesn’t exist anymore.”

Last month, SB 249 was approved by the Assembly Public Safety Committee and will be considered by the Assembly Appropriations Committee next week.


Contact: Adam J. Keigwin,
(916) 651-4008