SAN FRANCISCO - Today, Attorney General Kamala D. Harris and Assemblymember David Chiu announced legislation to close the “bullet button” loophole. This loophole enables a firearm owner to use a bullet or other pointed object to quickly detach and replace a weapon’s ammunition magazine, converting a rifle into a semi-automatic assault weapon. An individual can switch magazines on a gun with a bullet button within seconds. This bill would expand the classification of assault weapons to include semi-automatic center fire rifles, which are capable of accepting detachable magazines.
“The devastation wrought by gun violence on innocent victims, children and families in this country is an international embarrassment,” said Attorney General Harris. “This is a common sense solution that closes a dangerous loophole in California’s assault weapons ban. We simply must do everything we can to keep dangerous, high capacity firearms off of our streets and out of our communities.”
Assembly Bill 1663 will broaden the classification of restricted firearms to include dangerous assault weapons that are currently easy to purchase and manufacture. In 1989, passage of the Roberti-Roos Assault Weapons Control Act (the AWCA) made it a felony to manufacture any of the assault weapons listed in the statute. In 1999, the Legislature expanded the AWCA to include more technologically advanced semiautomatic weapons, including firearms with a “fixed magazine” and/or firearms with “the capacity to accept a detachable magazine.” Under current law, manufacturers have been able to create firearms with detachable magazines that evade classification as assault weapons that are prohibited from being possessed, sold, transferred or imported into the state without a permit. “Bullet buttons” require the tip of a bullet or tool to release a magazine and insert a new one. Because a device is needed to eject the magazine, bullet button firearms are not restricted under the AWCA statute.
“We must close the loopholes in our assault weapons ban so that guns like the ones used in San Bernardino, Newtown, and Aurora cannot be bought legally in our state,” said Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco), who first worked on gun legislation as a United States Senate aide in the mid-1990s. “Detachable magazines cost lives, and it is more important to save lives during future mass shootings than to be able to reload assault weapons in the blink of an eye. I appreciate the sponsorship by Attorney General Harris and look forward to working this year with my colleagues and the Governor’s office on this and other efforts to prevent gun violence.”
Attorney General Harris has made the implementation of effective gun safety measures a priority. Since November 2013, Attorney General Harris has brought the number of individuals in the Armed Prohibited Persons System (APPS) database to a historic low of 12,691—effectively removing 20,573 prohibited individuals. Over the last two years, the California Department of Justice has also doubled the average number of guns seized annually and increased the number of investigations per month by nearly 300 percent.
In 2011, Attorney General Harris sponsored SB 819 (Leno) to allow the Department of Justice to use existing regulatory fees collected by gun dealers (“DROS fees”) for purposes of regulatory and enforcement activities related to firearms, including management of APPS. This went into effect January 2012. In 2013, Attorney General Harris sponsored SB 140 (Leno) to appropriate $24 million in funding from the DROS Account to help support the APPS program; this urgency legislation went into effect immediately in May 2013.
In 2013, Attorney General Harris convened a Leadership Group of California’s district attorneys to collaboratively develop recommendations to reduce gun violence through enforcement of existing laws and prevention efforts.
Earlier this month, Attorney General Harris issued a statement in support of President Obama’s executive actions to reduce gun violence through enhanced background checks, increased mental heath treatment and improved gun safety technology.