California institutes new gun laws for 2017

Valencia resident Mike St. John shoots at A Place to Shoot in Santa Clarita in February 2016. Dan Watson/The Signal

Editor’s Note: Updated to include clarification of guns with large capacity magazines purchased before 2000.

The New Year marked the beginning of wide sweeping changes to California’s gun laws.

With passed Assembly Bills (AB), Senate Bills (SB) and a California Proposition, California’s approximately 6 million gun owners can expect to see these changes take effect Jan. 1 and July 1 of this year.

Laws which went into effect as of Jan. 1 include:

Assault weapons re-defined

California has a new definition for an “assault weapon” that now includes semi-automatics, centerfire rifles or semi-automatic pistols that do not have fixed magazines.

SB 880 and AB 1135 banned the sale of these weapons and attempted to close the “bullet-button” loophole for guns created in response to the state’s original ban of military-style assault rifles.

“This is landmark legislation that strengthens the nation’s first assault weapon ban,” said AB 1135 author and Assemblymember Marc Levine in a press release. “This legislation closes a loophole in law that allows military-style assault rifles to be sold legally in California.”

Those who purchased one of the listed weapons before Jan. 1 must reregister it with the California Department of Justice by Dec. 31, 2017.

Restricted gun loans

Individuals can no longer lend firearms to anyone outside of one’s immediate family because of AB 1151.  The new law limits the “infrequent loan” of a gun between family members to less than 30 days no more than six times per year.

An exception to the law includes those who are hunting guides who are loaning a gun to those that possess hunting licenses and are using loaned guns during the hunting season.

Securing handguns

Law enforcement personnel are required to follow the same rules as civilians by locking their handguns in the trunk or in a locked container out of plain view in an unattended vehicle.  SB 869 is in response to a string of crimes committed with stolen officer guns throughout California.

“Officers’ guns must be securely stored if they are left in vehicles,” bill author and Senator Jerry Hill said in a statement. “This is a matter of basic public safety and common sense.”

False report penalties

Now, it is a crime to falsely report that a firearm is lost or stolen.  AB 1695, also called “Stop the Illegal Gun Sales Act,” aims to end the practice of “straw purchasers,” who buy and resell guns to individuals who cannot pass a regular background check.

If caught, an individual will be unable to purchase a gun for 10 years after the false report.

Laws which take effect as of July 1 include:

Reporting window for thefts

In July, a portion of Proposition 63—passed by California voters in the Nov. 8 election—regarding the reporting of lost or stolen guns will take effect.

Individuals will have five days to report the loss or theft of a firearm to law enforcement, while firearms dealers will have 48 hours to report the loss of theft of any firearm or ammunition.

Large-capacity magazines

Starting July 1 it will also be illegal to possess large-capacity magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds.  SB 1446 requires those in possession of a large-capacity magazine to dispose of the magazine by destroying it, removing it from the state, selling it to a licensed firearms dealer or surrendering it to law enforcement before July 1.

The law does not apply to holders of special weapons permits, use by employees in line of duty for a law enforcement agency, use as a prop for motion picture or television, or use in a museum or institutional society.

Those who were honorably retired from being “a sworn peace officer” or who are licensed gunsmiths are also exempt from the new law.

Gun owners who purchased a gun with a large-capacity magazine before 2000 may keep the magazine that goes with the gun as long as it is only used for that specific firearm and “if no magazine that holds 10 or fewer rounds of ammunition is compatible with that firearm.”

Antique firearms

According to the California Department of Justice (DOJ), antique firearms manufactured prior to 1899 and certain pistols designed for use in Olympic target shooting events are also exempt from these provisions.

Assault weapons

Assault weapons and rifles, however, cannot be sold to, transferred to or inherited by family members.

If an assault weapon is inherited, an individual must render the weapon permanently inoperable, sell the weapon to a licensed gun dealer who has a permit for assault weapons, lawfully remove the weapon from California or obtain a permit for assault weapons, according to the DOJ.

This means that individuals may remove the characteristics that make a gun an assault weapon before transferring ownership.  Otherwise, it will be classified as an illegal sale or transfer.

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