Last updated October 18, 2010
The Law Center monitored all firearm-related bills that were introduced in the California Legislature this year. The analysis below highlights and summarizes significant legislation considered by the Legislature in 2010. Our California law summary contains information about the state’s existing firearms laws.
Legislation to Strengthen California’s Gun Laws
AB 1810: Crime Gun Tracing Improvement Act
AB 1810 (Feuer-D) is a comprehensive bill to improve the integrity of DOJ’s Automated Firearms System (AFS) database in order to aid law enforcement in the tracing of crime guns, improve officers’ on-the-job safety, and assist in identifying weapons possessed by prohibited persons. The bill removes a provision of state law that forces DOJ to destroy copies of long gun transfer forms after five days, and instead obligates DOJ to input these records into the AFS database. Law enforcement will also no longer be prohibited from compiling information from dealer records for long guns.
The bill creates uniformity in the information that must be provided on a Dealer’s Record of Sale from, regardless of whether the firearm is a handgun or a long gun. As a result, important identifying information (including the make, model, caliber, and type of firearm) would be recorded in long gun transfers.
The bill also undoes a number of provisions that currently exempt certain long gun transfers from recordkeeping and reporting requirements, including provisions relating to new California residents who bring firearms in from other states, and persons who receive long guns through operation of law or from immediate family members.
Finally, the bill would require firearms dealers to report the receipt of any long gun on the day that the dealer acquires it, as is currently required for handguns.
Policy Considerations: AB 1810 would stop the needless destruction of long gun records, which prevents law enforcement from using this information to quickly identify the owners of crime guns. AB 1810 would also ensure the integrity of long gun records by removing reporting and recordkeeping exemptions that currently apply to certain long gun transfers.
Another significant benefit of long gun record retention is that it would protect law enforcement officers who must respond to traffic stops and emergency calls at private residences. Officers currently could use the AFS database to check whether a person in a car or at a residence may own any handguns, but they have no way of knowing whether that person may own any long guns. This information gap puts law enforcement at needless risk.
Finally, long gun record retention would assist law enforcement in identifying all firearms – not just handguns – owned by persons who are prohibited by law from possessing guns. These critical records would help law enforcement facilitate firearm relinquishment by dangerous felons, domestic abusers, and others who have been convicted of crimes which render them ineligible to possess firearms.
Status: Following a vote on the Senate floor on 8/30/10 in which AB 1810 did not pass (18-18), the bill was moved to the Senate inactive file. The bill is now dead.
AB 1934: Open Carry Ban
AB 1934 (Saldaña-D) would prohibit the open carrying of unloaded handguns in any public place or on any public street. Current law prohibits the possession of loaded firearms, except in certain unincorporated areas, but does not prohibit the open carrying of unloaded firearms, even if the individual is also carrying ammunition on his or her person. State law also allows a law enforcement agency in a county with less than 200,000 persons to issue licenses to openly carry loaded firearms within that county.
Under AB 1934, a number of persons would be exempt from the open carrying prohibition, including individuals authorized to carry concealed weapons (law enforcement officers and persons with concealed carry licenses) as well as certain persons engaged in parading or ceremonial activities, firearms sales or repair, and hunting or target shooting, among other categories.
Policy Considerations: The recent surge in open carrying – at, among other places, coffee shops, political rallies, and public parks – only creates more opportunities for everyday interpersonal conflicts to turn into deadly shootouts. While members of the open carry movement argue that they are just “exercising their rights,” the open carrying of firearms intimidates the public, wastes law enforcement resources, and creates opportunities for injury and death due to the accidental or intentional use of firearms.
Status: Although AB 1934 passed in a Senate floor vote on 8/31/10 (21-16), the bill did not receive a required concurrence vote in the Assembly before the conclusion of the legislative session. The bill is now dead.
AB 2358: Improving Handgun Ammunition Vendor Requirements
AB 2358 (De León-D) makes several modifications to state laws regulating handgun ammunition sales that were adopted in AB 962 last year. Under this bill, a handgun ammunition vendor must provide written notice to local law enforcement of the vendor’s intent to conduct business in the jurisdiction; the vendor is also obligated to obtain any regulatory or business license required by the local jurisdiction for ammunition sellers. The bill additionally provides that vendors must transmit copies of handgun ammunition sales records to local law enforcement, if required by local law. Finally, the bill prohibits vendors from providing sales records to third parties without purchaser consent, and requires the destruction of sales records after five years.
Policy Considerations: This bill will help facilitate local law enforcement’s use of ammunition sales records to identify prohibited purchasers. At the same time, the bill addresses the concern that AB 962 did not sufficiently protect the privacy of handgun ammunition purchasers from unauthorized third parties.
Status: Did not pass in Senate floor vote on 8/31/10 (20-17). Bill is dead.
AB 302: Electronic Reporting of Mental Health Designations
Under current law, if a person is certified for intensive treatment or taken into custody as a danger to himself, herself or others, that person is prohibited from possessing any firearms for five years. When such a person is first certified or taken into custody, a mental health facility is required to submit a form to DOJ notifying the Department of this designation. Current law does not require electronic reporting of these forms. As a result, reporting can be delayed, resulting in incomplete records that could enable prohibited persons to pass background checks and purchase firearms.
AB 302 (Beall-D) would require mental health facilities to electronically submit the forms notifying DOJ of these prohibitive designations. In 2008, AB 2696 would have similarly required electronic reporting in these cases. After passing the Legislature, that bill was vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger.
Policy Considerations: Electronic reporting of mental health records will better ensure that the DOJ database of prohibited persons is updated in a timely manner, so that persons with serious mental health issues will be unable to purchase firearms.
Status: Signed into law by Governor Schwarzenegger.
AB 2186: Expanding List of Misdemeanors Prohibiting Gun Ownership
California law prohibits individuals convicted of a wide variety of misdemeanors from possessing firearms for ten years after their conviction. AB 2186 (De León-D) would expand the list of prohibitive misdemeanors to include a misdemeanor conviction for carrying a concealed firearm. This bill is similar to last year’s AB 1498 (also De León), which would have also expanded the list of disqualifying misdemeanors. That bill was held in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
Policy Considerations: AB 2186 would add a serious gun-related crime to the list of prohibiting misdemeanors. Unlawfully carrying a concealed firearm is a serious offense that should disqualify a person from possessing firearms, since it demonstrates reckless disregard for state firearm laws and public safety. AB 2186 creates a reasonable bar to firearm possession in order to reduce the risk of future firearm violence.
Status: Bill is dead.
SB 282: Prohibiting Third Party Access to Transaction Records
SB 282 (Wright-D) prohibits handgun ammunition vendors from providing handgun ammunition sales records to third parties without purchaser consent, and requires the destruction of sales records after five years. The bill also prohibits dealers from providing any information from Dealer’s Record of Sale forms to any third party or from using the information “for any purpose other than as is required or authorized by statute or regulation,” without the written consent of the person providing the information. The bill specifies that any Dealer’s Record of Sale records that are to be destroyed must be destroyed in a manner that protects the privacy of the firearm purchaser or transferee who is the subject of the record. SB 282 will only take effect if AB 2358 (discussed above) is also enacted by the Legislature this year.
Policy Considerations: Like AB 2358, this bill addresses the concern that AB 962 did not sufficiently protect the privacy of handgun ammunition purchasers from unauthorized third-parties, and addresses privacy concerns related to DROS records.
Status: Bill is dead.
SB 1080 and SB 1115: Reorganizing the Penal Code
SB 1080 and SB 1115 are two bills authored by the Senate Public Safety Committee that institute the re-codification of sections of the Penal Code based on the recommendations of the California Law Review Commission. In 2006, the Legislature adopted ACR 73 (McCarthy), which directed the Commission to study, report on, and prepare recommended legislation to address concerns that the state’s firearms laws were overly lengthy and complex.
The Legislature’s objectives for the project included reducing the code provisions’ length and complexity, eliminating duplicative provisions, and reorganizing the code so that related provisions would be in close proximity to each other. At the same time, the Legislature emphasized that the Commission’s recommended legislation should not substantively change California firearms laws.
Policy Considerations: The Law Center participated in the California Law Revision Commission’s code revision process and supports the efforts of the Legislature and the Commission to simplify and enhance clarity in the state’s firearms laws.
Status: Both bills were signed by the governor.
Legislation to Weaken California’s Gun Laws
AB 1663: Repealing AB 962
AB 1663 (Hagman-R) would repeal most of the laws adopted last year in AB 962. As a result of AB 962, state law now requires vendors to store handgun ammunition so that it is inaccessible to purchasers without the assistance of the vendor. Beginning February 1, 2011, California law will also require that handgun ammunition vendors maintain records containing certain identifying information about purchasers, and that all handgun ammunition sales be completed in face-to-face transactions. AB 1663 would repeal all of these provisions.
Policy Considerations: The Legislature enacted AB 962 because it was common sense legislation to help keep handgun ammunition away from criminals, young people and other prohibited persons. As the governor concluded in his signing statement, “Assembly Bill 962 reasonably regulates access to ammunition and improves public safety without placing undue burdens on consumers.”
Status: Bill is dead.
AB 2053: Defining Good Cause for CCW Licensing
Under current law, a local law enforcement agency “may” issue an individual a license to carry a concealed firearm only after finding that the applicant: 1) has good cause to receive a license; 2) has completed a firearms safety course; 3) is not prohibited from possessing firearms; and 4) is of good moral character.
AB 2053 (Miller-R) would amend the law to broadly define “good cause” to include “self defense, defending the life of another, or preventing crime in which human life is threatened.” The bill would prevent local law enforcement from requiring an applicant for a concealed weapon license who offers one of these justifications to prove the existence of specific circumstances in order to satisfy good cause. Moreover, if an applicant does not offer one of the above reasons, AB 2053 encourages local law enforcement to issue concealed carry licenses based on considering “Section 1 of Article 1 of the California Constitution, including the declaration of rights providing that all people are by nature free and independent and have inalienable rights” and the purported “value of concealed firearms in deterring violent crime.”
Policy Considerations: By forcing local law enforcement to approve license applications where only a pro forma declaration of “self defense, defending the life of another, or preventing crime in which human life is threatened” is offered, AB 2053 would force agencies across California to issue concealed weapons licenses to individuals who have only a hypothetical need to carry a gun in public. AB 2053’s goal is clear: to allow as many individuals to carry concealed firearms as possible, regardless of the dangers widespread carrying creates.
Status: Bill is dead.
AB 2115: Providing Good Cause Exemption for CCW Applications by Veterans
AB 2115 (Knight-R) would amend the state’s concealed firearm licensing law to exempt any applicant who is an armed forces veteran from the requirement to provide good cause in order to receive a license. Under current California law, a local law enforcement agency “may” issue an individual a license to carry a concealed firearm only after finding that the applicant: 1) has good cause to receive a license; 2) has completed a firearms safety course; 3) is not prohibited from possessing firearms; and 4) is of good moral character.
Policy Considerations: By eliminating the good cause requirement for California’s approximately 2 million veterans, AB 2115 would force local law enforcement agencies across the state to issue concealed weapons licenses to veterans who are unable to offer any justifiable need to carry a gun in public. There is simply no sound public policy justification for making it easier for veterans to carry hidden guns than for other Californians, particularly given the serious risks associated with concealed carrying.
Status: Bill is dead.
AB 2413: Recognizing Concealed Carry Licenses From Other States
AB 2413 (Norby-R) would require California to recognize concealed firearms licenses issued by the states of Arizona, Nevada and Oregon.
Policy Considerations: Weak concealed carry laws in other states allow a disturbing number of dangerous persons to slip through the cracks and acquire licenses to carry concealed weapons. Arizona, Nevada and Oregon are all “shall issue” states, meaning that an individual can obtain a permit in one of these states without demonstrating any justifiable need to carry a concealed firearm. AB 2413 would force California to open the floodgates to the carrying of concealed firearms by licensees from these states.
Status: Bill is dead.
AB 2152: Exempting Veterans from Handgun Safety Certificate Requirement
Prior to amendments that rewrote the bill, AB 2152 (Nielsen-R) would have exempted any honorably discharged armed forces veteran from the requirement to acquire a Handgun Safety Certificate prior to receiving a handgun. Under current California law, subject to limited exceptions, any person intending to purchase or receive a handgun must obtain a Handgun Safety Certificate and present the certificate to a firearms dealer prior to receiving the weapon. In order to obtain a certificate, an applicant must successfully pass an objective written test that covers, among other topics: California laws applicable to carrying and handling handguns, the private sale of firearms, and the permissible use of lethal force, as well as the responsibilities of handgun ownership, safe firearm storage, and the issues associated with bringing a handgun into the home.
Policy Considerations: California’s Handgun Safety Certificate requirement seeks both to reduce the number of unintentional shootings, by ensuring that gun owners know how to safely use and store their weapons, and to increase compliance with firearms laws, by requiring gun owners to demonstrate knowledge of those laws. Regardless of whether California’s approximately 2 million veterans received adequate training on the safe handling and storage of handguns during their military service, it is essential that they be familiar with California’s firearms laws.
The Handgun Safety Certificate testing process is a reasonable way to confirm a baseline level of familiarity with fundamental state gun laws. Compared to the vital public safety interests it helps protect, the process imposes a minimal burden upon new handgun owners. The Law Center has nothing but the greatest respect for our nation’s veterans, whose service to the country is truly commendable. However, there is simply no reason to exempt them from a test that confirms their understanding of California firearms laws.
Status: Bill is dead.
AB 2609: Exempting Veterans from Handgun Safety Certificate Requirement
AB 2609 (Anderson-R) would exempt any honorably discharged armed forces veteran from the requirement to acquire a Handgun Safety Certificate prior to receiving a handgun. The bill is very similar to AB 2152 (discussed above), with the notable difference that AB 2609 would require that any person exempt from the HSC requirement be given a copy of the Department of Justice’s handgun safety and firearms law materials when receiving a handgun.
Please refer to the discussion of AB 2152 for additional background and policy considerations.
Additonal Policy Considerations: AB 2609’s requirement that veterans receive copies of the Department of Justice’s materials does not significantly strengthen the bill. It seems unlikely that most people would voluntarily and carefully review a fifty-plus page study guide on handguns and state law, especially if they considered themselves familiar with the workings of these firearms. Even if handgun purchasers did choose to review the materials, there is no way to confirm that they understood them without the objective written test.
Status: Bill is dead.
AB 2546: Exempting Handguns from Safety Requirements
California law prohibits the manufacture, importation or sale of any handgun unless that weapon has been deemed “certified for sale” by the Department of Justice. In order to be certified, a handgun must, among other requirements, pass a firing test, confirming that the weapon can fire multiple times without malfunctioning, and a drop safety test, confirming that the firearm can be dropped without discharging.
AB 2546 would authorize dealers to import and sell handguns that have not passed California’s handgun safety tests if production of those guns ceased prior to January 1, 2000. The bill would also exempt “commemorative” or “custom-made” handguns produced in quantities of 1,000 or fewer from the state’s safety requirements.
Policy Considerations: In prohibiting the manufacture, importation or sale of unsafe handguns in 1999, the Legislature recognized the particular dangers that “junk guns” posed to firearm owners. There is simply no justification to permit the importation and sale of additional potentially unsafe handguns.
Moreover, the bill does not define “commemorative” or “custom-made,” which could create significant loopholes for manufacturers seeking to avoid the unsafe handgun law. More importantly, there is no reason why even properly defined “commemorative” or “custom-made” weapons should be exempt from fundamental handgun safety requirements that protect firearms owners.
Status: Bill is dead.
AB 979: Preempting Local Regulation of Hunting and Fishing
AB 979 (T. Berryhill-R) would preempt local regulation in the areas of hunting and fishing. Cities and counties would be prohibited from adopting any ordinance or regulation “that affects hunting or fishing unless the ordinance or regulation is both necessary to protect public health and safety and has only an incidental impact on the fields of hunting and fishing preempted by state law. The ordinance or regulation shall not indiscriminately extend or apply to any areas where huntin and fishing may occur without endangering public health and safety nor to any lands or waters owned or managed by the state or federal government.”
Under AB 979, the Fish and Game Commission and the Department of Fish and Game would be the only state entities authorized to adopt or promulgate any regulations regarding hunting and fishing, unless otherwise authorized by state or federal law. The bill does specify, however, that nothing prohibits a public or private landowner from regulating public access or public use of property that the landowner owns, in a manner consistent with state law.
Policy Considerations: While it is true that the California Supreme Court has held that local regulation of hunting and fishing are preempted by state law, the bill’s articulation of preemption would prevent local jurisdictions from adopting discharge bans and other valid public safety ordinances that have a greater-than-incidental impact on hunting. This bill is similar to AB 815 from the 2007-08 legislative session, which the Governor vetoed in 2008. The author’s statement in an AB 815 committee report identified discharge bans in Hercules and Placer County as examples of local ordinances that would have been preempted by that bill.
Status: Vetoed by the governor.
ACA 11: Right to Hunt and Fish
ACA 11 (B. Berryhill-R) proposes an amendment to the California Constitution stating that, “The citizens of this State have the right to hunt and fish wildlife, subject only to statutes enacted by the Legislature and regulations adopted by the Fish and Game Commission to promote wildlife conservation and management. Public hunting and fishing, including the use of traditional methods, shall be a preferred means of managing and controlling wildlife. This section shall not be construed to modify any provision of law relating to trespass or property rights.”
Policy Considerations: This amendment could be used to challenge local ordinances prohibiting the discharge of firearms.
Status: Bill is dead.
Other Firearm-Related Bills
- AB 1254: Repealing Discharge Prohibition on Private Property (Repeal provision was removed. Bill was signed by the governor.)
- AB 1838: Expanding Unlawful Detainer Pilot Programs to San Joaquin County (Vetoed)
- AB 2155: Limiting Voluntary Surrender Programs (Bill is dead)
- AB 2157: Revising Training Requirements for Probation and Parole Officers (Bill is dead)
- AB 2223: Requiring Use of Non-Toxic Shot in Hunting and Shooting (Bill is dead)
- AB 2324: Enforcing Security at Public Transit Vehicle Stations (Signed into law)
- AB 2384: Expanding Carrying by Parole Officers (Bill is dead)
- AB 2427: Limiting Authority of Fish and Game Commission (Bill is dead)
- AB 2668: Prohibiting the Possession of Loaded Firearms in the State Capitol (Signed into law)
- SB 1165: Exempting Transfer of Curios and Relics from Verification Number Requirement (Bill is dead)
- SB 1179: Creating Free Hunting Days (Signed into law)