Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Proposed Bills Would Ban "Bullet Buttons" in California

Under current California law, an "assault weapon" is defined as any semi-automatic, centerfire rifle that includes a detachable magazine and one of several enumerated "scary" features (e.g. a pistol grip, folding stock, etc.).  A magazine is not considered "detachable" under the law if its removal requires the use of a tool.

Enter the "bullet button".  The bullet button is a California oddity.  It is essentially a magazine release button that cannot simply be depressed by the shooter's thumb, the way that magazine release buttons typically work.  Instead, the bullet button features a small hole which requires the shooter to insert some pointy tool (such as the tip of an unused bullet) to release the magazine. Hence the name, "bullet button".  It looks like this:



A pair of pending laws would amend the California Penal Code to ban any magazine or ammunition feeding device that can be removed without disassembling the weapon, including magazines that can be removed with the use of a tool.  The bills are specifically intended to prohibit the bullet button. Current owners of rifles with installed bullet buttons would be required to register their weapons with the state, and they would be prohibited from selling, transferring or giving away their firearms. Gun owners would even be prohibited from passing down their collections to their children when they die.

Proponents of the measures claim that they close a "loophole" that currently allows individuals to circumvent the spirit of the law.  They argue that the ability to quickly reload a rifle poses a danger to public safety.

Opponents argue that the proposed bills are just the latest attempt to curtail the rights of shooters and hunters in California with more unnecessary and unduly burdensome regulations.  I tend to agree (no surprises here).

Governor Brown vetoed a similar law immediately after the mass shooting in Newtown, CT.  In his veto message, he noted that California already has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the nation.  Since Arizona and Nevada have very permissive rules regarding gun sales, imposing more onerous restrictions on law-abiding Californians would likely have little effect on gun violence here. Criminals will continue importing illegal weapons from out-of-state.  He also noted that hundreds of thousands of Californians currently own rifles with detachable magazines, which are commonly used for target shooting and hunting.

The proposed laws would solve a problem that simply does not exist in California.  According to the State Department of Justice, California experienced 1,697 murders in 2014 (the most recent year for which data is available).  Of those 1,697 murders, only 40 were committed by rifle.  That's a whopping 2.3% of all murders in the state.  There is no information available regarding how many of the rifles involved in those 40 killings featured detachable magazines, or to determine if the proposed laws would have prevented a single killing.

In the same year, shotguns killed 43 people.  Blunt objects killed 65.  Knives were involved in 256 murders.  Handguns killed 763.  Of all the weapons that were included in the AG's statistics, the only one that killed fewer people than rifles was rope.  It's fair to say that we don't have a rifle problem in California.

The laws currently pending in the California Assembly, AB-1663 and AB-1664 would impose an undue burden on lawful gun owners, without any corresponding benefits for public safety.  They would expose the state to costly litigation as 2nd Amendment groups sue to block enforcement of the new restrictions.  These proposed bills are obviously an election-year distraction by politicians desperately grasping for headlines.  If you agree, please call your local Assemblyman and let him or her know how you feel.

If you or a loved one is accused of any gun-related crime in Southern California, call our office for a free consultation.  (714) 449-3335.  We understand California's complicated gun laws and we have the experience to fight your case.

Thanks for reading.

Orange County Gun Lawyer