California to Place More Restrictions on AR-15s, Semiautomatic Rifles

Not content with micro-stamping, background checks for ammo, and outright bans on handguns that aren’t individually tested to be “safe”, California is back on the gun control warpath. If state Sen. Anthony Portantino’s bill passes in a final vote in the Legislature this week, California residents will soon be barred from buying more than one semiautomatic rifle a month. Purchases of any semiautomatic rifles will also be off-limits to anyone under the age of 21.

Portantino’s bill originally called for limiting monthly purchases on all long guns – shotguns and bolt-action rifles included – but he decided to exclude those which are popular with hunters. “That’s the weapon of choice over and over again” for mass shooters, claims Portantino, explaining why he narrowed the bill to just semiautomatic rifles. “We are focusing on what we think is the most heinous gun that is causing most of the activity.”

Hunting Licensees Under 21 No Longer Exempt

California already banned the sale of guns to residents under the age of 21, but there is – at least for now – an exemption for those with state hunting licenses. Portantino is attempting to close this exemption having learned that that the Chabab of Poway shooter applied for a hunting license at the time of his attack. “Under the bill, even if you have a hunting license you can’t buy one of these guns if you are under 21,” Portantino said.

Portantino and supports of the bill argue that these new restrictions will reduce straw purchase, in which an eligible buyer illegally purchases a firearm for another individual – usually, someone otherwise barred from gun ownership.

Portantino’s Legislation is Ineffective by The Numbers

Guns don’t cause activity like Portantino says. People do. And semiautomatic rifles account for just a tiny fraction (around 4%, according to the FBI) of all shootings that happen in the U.S. every year. In fact, blunt objects account for more deaths than rifles each year.

Portantino’s legislation is also largely ineffective in its intent to reduce mass shootings. It takes just one firearm for any shooter to carry out a shooting, and history and crime data show that the semiautomatic rifle is not the weapon of choice for shooters. The National Rifle Association and its state affiliate, the California Rifle and Pistol Association, have spoken out against the bill.

“The NRA believes lawmakers ought to have the interests of Californians at heart and place their focus and the full burden of law on criminals,” said Amy Hunter, a spokeswoman for the group. “Sadly, they don’t. This bill places burdens on law-abiding residents. It will not make anyone safer.​”

The state association further warned of the potentially negative impact such legislation might have on state commerce. The group says the bill will reduce the sales of long guns and thus the manufacturing jobs they create, while also cutting fee revenue from gun sales that go to the State Department.

“There are, in fact, numerous legitimate recreational and Second Amendment protected reasons why an individual might want, and need, to transfer more than one firearm a month,” the group said, noting that some gun competitions require use of three firearms.

California Slowly Chipping Away at Second Amendment

Portantino’s bill is just another stepping stone in California’s descent to becoming an anti-Second Amendment dystopia. Over just a few years, California has passed dozens of bills restricting firearm commerce, manufacturing, gunsmithing, and ownership. In 2016 alone, legislators sent nine new bills to the Governor’s desk.

Legislators also approved bills that created lifetime bans on gun ownership for those convicted of domestic violence or who are involuntarily hospitalized for mental illness twice in a year; made it tougher to be licensed to carry a concealed firearm; and strengthened a law prohibiting multi-burst trigger devices called bump stocks.

California’s Battle Against Gun Builders

With how much effort California’s politicians exert against gun ownership, the state continues to struggle to answer how it will effectively pass legislation that prevents or reduces gun violence. Instead, many of its ratified gun laws target law-abiding owners.

This is evident in the state’s continuous pursuit to misinform the public of, and enact restrictions and laws against, homemade firearms. The Gun Control Act of 1968 allows private citizens to legally construct a firearm at home if it is for personal use. At the Federal level, this practice requires no paperwork or interaction with an FFL. Builders are free to purchase receiver blanks and frames – incomplete firearms that require additional fabrication at home – and all the parts that are not considered firearms under Federal law. Typically referred to as an “80% lower”, it is this single product that launched a state-wide campaign against the AR-15 rifle.

California has recently submitted yet another piece of legislation – AB 879 – to once again ban even more gun-making parts and items which are not considered firearms. Referring to such parts as “firearm precursor parts”, the bill would require any buyer to conduct a transaction through a state-certified FFL. That includes many AR-15 parts and firearm build kits that include receiver blanks, which are not illegal to purchase, ship, or own without an FFL.

The bill currently resides in the state Legislator and passed the Senate on September 4, 2019. If enacted, this overreaching anti-gun legislation would go into full effect July 1, 2025. A heated battle is sure to ensure as organizations like the NRA and California Rifle & Pistol Association (CRPA) respond in kind.

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