The DOJ Withdrawl
Last year the California Legislature passed a series of laws regarding firearms. One of those laws dealt with the classification of an “Assault Weapon”. SB 880 states that a semi-automatic firearm with a detachable magazine, and one or more “evil features”… (a pistol grip, a flash suppressor, a collapsable stock, etc.)… are “assault rifles”.
This definition does not alter the already established definition of an “assault rifle”. Prior to Jan 1, 2017 many California rifle owners used a product called a “bullet button” to “fix” the magazine in place. (Remember… the definition only becomes actionable if it is determined that the magazine is not “fixed” in place). “Fixed in place” became a legal term of art indicating that the magazine could “only be removed with a tool.” The makers of the ubiquitous Bullet Button developed a product that replaced a traditional magazine release. To remove the magazine, the shooter needs to insert a punch tool into a hole in the magazine release mechanism. The hole is big enough for a .556 round to also be used. Hence the ability to change magazines and be legally compliant.
(If you have arrived here from our newsletter, continue reading here:)
SB 880’s big contribution to the California legal landscape is that they said that the “bullet button” is no longer recognized as a legitimate method for keeping the rifle from being designated as an “assault weapon.” Now… according to the legislature… the only way for a magazine to be “fixed in place” is that the action of the rifle must be “cracked” or “hinged” open prior to the magazine being released.
They also said that if an individual legally owns a semi-automatic rifle prior to Jan 1, 2017, they can opt to register it with the State and have it recognized as an “assault rifle”. (They have from Jan 1- Dec. 31 2017 to do this)
Pursuant to this new set of laws, on December 29th, the California Dept. of Justice filed a set of Administrative laws to establish the regulations necessary to implement SB 880.
Apparently the California Justice Department did not feel that the legislators had gone far enough when it came to “assault rifles”. They decided it was within their prerogative to essentially craft new legislation.
One of the more interesting things they came up with was an entirely new category of “assault weapons.”
In their regulations they sate that the only weapons that can be registered with the state of California are fully completed weapons. (I have no idea where this one comes from. The 9th Circuit has already stated that virtually every component of a firearm is not really a firearm and thus potentially regulated by the State. Now the State is saying that the only thing that makes a firearm a firearm is a fully completed an assembled weapon. It can’t be both kids.)
They also state in their regulations, that you need to photograph the completed rifle, electronically send it to Sacramento, and then they will designate it as an “assault weapon”…
with a catch…
It must keep the “bullet button” in place.
Huh? The only purpose of the “bullet button” was to keep it from being designated as an assault rifle. Now the only way it can be an “assault rifle” is to have a bullet button?!?!
So… from this we glean that DOJ unilaterally developed two types of “assault rifles.” One is the traditional definition that the legislature articulated… the second being “bullet button assault rifles.”
Here is the more interesting part: The methodology for for registering the rifle requires you to photograph it.
Remember I said that as of Jan 1 the “bullet button” no longer would be sufficient to keep the rifle from being designated as an “assault rifle”? Well… according to the DOJ admin regs, they wanted you to get out your rifle…with your “bullet button” installed on it… photograph it and send the photos to Sacramento. Then they would “approve” it as an “assault rifle” and you would need to keep it in that exact configuration…
Ok.. couple of things.
First… where in the law does it state that a registered lower needs to be completed for a form of registration? If registration were contemplated at different levels of construction then why not articulate that? If the lower alone is not an “assault weapon” then why create restrictions on transference between parties?
Second… remember that whole photograph thing?
So let’s say you want to register your “bullet button assault rifle”. You grab it out of the safe and go to work snapping pics on your Iphone. What you are really doing is recording visual evidence of a crime. You see… if that photo was taken after January 1 then by definition the gun sitting there on your kitchen table with a “bullet button” is an unregistered “assault weapon”. The only way to become legally compliant would be to take a picture of yourself committing a crime, send that information to DOJ, and then you get your permission slip. Forgetting a Fifth Amendment violation… why would a governmental agency demand that you commit a crime first in order to be essentially given an exemption from committing it in the future?
Well… regardless of the idiocy, on Friday the 10th of February, DOJ withdrew their administrative policies.
Now, many are seeing this as a great victory… and to be fair, it may be,….but right now we just don’t know. They may be been given some “legal advice” showing them the moronic nature of their regs, and the fact that they would clearly be challenged in court, and ultimately have them overturned.
They may have something even more onerous, and difficult to challenge waiting to be filled. We should know soon enough.
Regardless…. as of today there is currently no methodology for registering your rifle. The only “legal” rifles in California are featureless, Break Action (Bullet Button 2.0 or variant) or truly permanently fixed magazines.
We will keep you up to speed as things develop.