Some of you may have heard about the recent buying craze of off list AR-15 style lowers in the state of Califoria. We have known for some time that they would be declared as assault weapons an banned. Well, my worst fear has been realized...they are going to be banned as Assault Weapons but we can not
ASSEMBLE THEM IN TO ASSAULT WEAPONS! Discuss.
California Department of Justice
The Department of Justice (hereafter the Department@) has received numerous contacts from the public and firearms industry personnel regarding the legality of various AR-15/AK 47 "series" style firearms that have not yet been identified as Aseries@ assault weapons by the Department. The Department is also aware of the recent high volume of sales of these firearms.
The Department has the statutory authority to identify Aseries@ assault weapons. In 2000, the California Supreme Court upheld that authority in Kasler v. Lockyer (2000) 23 Cal. 4th 472. The Department updated the list of "series" weapons in 2000 (as ACategory 2@ assault weapons), shortly after the Kasler decision. The registration period for Category 2 weapons ended on December 31, 2000.
The California Supreme Court reiterated in 2003 that Athe Attorney General has the authority to determine that certain semiautomatic firearms are assault weapons by simply identifying them as such in the list published by the Attorney General in the California Code of RegulationsYtwo types of firearms defined in section 12276 by the use of the term series, namely the AK-47 series and the Colt AR-15 series.@ Harrott v. County of Kings (2003) 25 Cal. 4th 1138, 1155.
Accordingly, the Department is currently in the process of identifying those firearms in the state which are variations, with minor differences, of AR-15/AK 47 "series" weapons. Once this process is complete, the Department will promulgate a list and file it with the Secretary of State=s office. Concurrently, the Department will begin updating the Assault Weapon Identification Guide which is currently available via the Department=s web-site at http://ag.ca.gov/firearms/forms/index.html. Once the list of newly identified Aseries@ weapons is filed with the Secretary of State, citizens who possess those weapons will have 90 days to register them with the Department of Justice.
Newly identified Aseries@ weapons cannot legally have the features listed in Penal Code 12276.1 when they are registered. Those features cannot legally be added after the firearms are registered as assault weapons. The Penal Code 12276.1 features have been banned since January 1, 2000, when SB 23 went into effect. The public was notified of the prohibition on the specified features many years ago.
The registration period for assault weapons with those characteristics (Category 3 assault weapons) ended on December 31, 2000. Because non-"series" assault weapons with 12276.1 features may not be offered for sale, manufactured, imported, or possessed in California, it follows that newly registered "series" weapons may not have the features listed in Penal Code 12276.1, either.
The prohibition on the features listed in Penal Code section 12276.1 is consistent with current DOJ policy that named Aseries@ weapons are illegal, unless registered, regardless of whether they have the 12276.1 features. It is also consistent with the intent of the California state legislature to ban assault weapons, expressed in 1991 when Penal Code 12276(f) was enacted.
This section is declaratory of existing law, as amended, and a clarification of the law and the Legislature=s intent which bans the weapons enumerated in this section, the weapons included in Section 12276.5, and any other models which are only minor variations of those weapons with minor differences, regardless of the manufacturer [emphasis added].
It should be noted that individuals who timely registered ACategory 1@ and ACategory 2@ assault weapons were allowed to keep or add the 12276.1 features on their firearms. Those generic features were not illegal during the registration period for Category 1 assault weapons. In August of 2000, when the Department identified the Category 2 Aseries@ weapons, it was legal to register weapons with those characteristics as Category 3 assault weapons. Firearms with those features could no longer be registered as of January 1, 2001. Therefore, newly identified Aseries@ (Category 4) weapons likewise cannot have those features.
Registrants of newly identified series weapons cannot legally add Penal Code section 12276.1 features to those firearms. The Department intends to enforce this restriction through the assault weapon registration process. Registration acknowledgment letters will include an admonition to registrants that adding prohibited features to newly registered assault weapons will invalidate registration. The basis for valid registration will rest solely on the fact that the Department identifies the receivers for these firearms as variations, with minor differences, of already controlled AR-15/AK 47 Aseries@ weapons. All additional features of the newly identified "series" weapons must conform with current California law.
Firearm manufacturers, wholesalers and dealers who misinform the public about the ability to legally add prohibited features to these newly listed firearms risk criminal prosecution. They could also face civil penalties of up to $2,500 per violation under the state=s Unfair Practices Act (California Business & Professions Code section 17000 et seq.).
This information will be distributed to criminal justice agencies throughout the state, as well as to firearm dealers listed on the Department's Centralized List, via the formal Information Bulletin process.