Possession of UNregistered California "assault weapons"
- 1 Possession of UNregistered California "assault weapons"
Possession of UNregistered California "assault weapons"
One can hope this situation will not happen to you, but questions about it continue to surface at Calguns.
A common mistake seems to have been presuming that the Federal 4473 and/or the California Dealers Record of Sale (DROS) 'registered' the "assault weapon".
This is not correct. Proper registration required a separate form and fee submitted to the California Department of Justice, and would have resulted in a letter back from DOJ indicating successful registration.
Registration is no longer possible
There were two major registration periods associated with California "assault weapons". The first was 12285. (a) (1) Any person who lawfully possesses an assault
weapon, as defined in Section 12276, prior to June 1, 1989, shall register the firearm by January 1, 1991
That registration period was for the 'named' weapons in the original Roberti-Roos bill.
The second was
Except as provided in subdivision (a) of Section 12280, any person who lawfully possessed an assault weapon prior to the date it was defined as an assault weapon pursuant to Section 12276.1, and which was not specified as an assault weapon under Section 12276 or 12276.5, shall register the firearm within one year of the effective date of Section 12276.1
(e) This section shall become operative January 1, 2000.
so the end-date of that period of registration was January 1, 2001.
That registration was for the weapons classified as "assault weapons" by feature, most notably
12276.1. (a) Notwithstanding Section 12276, "assault weapon" shall also mean any of the following: (1) A semiautomatic, centerfire rifle that has the capacity to accept a detachable magazine and any one of the following: (A) A pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon. (B) A thumbhole stock. (C) A folding or telescoping stock. (D) A grenade launcher or flare launcher. (E) A flash suppressor. (F) A forward pistol grip.
With the passing of AB2728, the Attorney General no longer has the power to declare new weapons to be "assault weapons". All of the prior registration periods are long passed. Without new legislation, there will never be another registration period.
Let me repeat that:
- All registration periods are over.
- There will never be another registration period.
- No one can register any more "assault weapons".
(But see the special case for law enforcement, below.)
See also the History of Assault Weapon Laws article.
Registration, by repute, was very sparsely obeyed
Published estimates generally group around 10% compliance with the registration requirement. A number of influencing factors have been suggested, including
- the mistake of DROS for "assault weapon" registration
- poor communication to gun owners of the requirement
- a lack of attention by gun owners to changes in the law
- an erroneous assumption, especially among law enforcement, that some individuals were exempt
- a severe distrust of the government
Possession is a 'wobbler'
A "clean" first offense can be relatively minor:
(b) Any person who, within this state, possesses any assault weapon, except as provided in this chapter, shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail for a period not exceeding one year, or by imprisonment in the state prison.
There was a lesser penalty for violations within one year of the end of registration, but such times are gone.
Transport is a FELONY
Sometimes a suggestion is made just to take a suspected unregistered "assault weapon" out of state. This is a very poor idea:
12280. (a) (1) Any person who, within this state, manufactures or causes to be manufactured, distributes, transports, or imports into the state, keeps for sale, or offers or exposes for sale, or who gives or lends any assault weapon or any .50 BMG rifle, except as provided by this chapter, is guilty of a felony, and upon conviction shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for four, six, or eight years.
Trying to avoid the loss of a few hundred dollars for the lower receiver, at a risk of four years in the state prison, is a serious misunderstanding of risk/reward.
What to do
Get a lawyer!
Do not, under any circumstances, consult your buddies, your brother, or your neighbor the cop. They are not the ones risking a year in jail - you are.
Do what your lawyer tells you. Certainly you will have to surrender the "assault weapon", at least the lower receiver; the upper receiver, barrel, stock set, magazines and internal parts are NOT the "assault weapon" so you may keep those.
Your lawyer should be able to arrange to surrender the "assault weapon" with minimal further problems.
It is extremely unwise to admit to a crime in a public forum, especially one read by many police agencies and the Department of Justice.
Special note for Law Enforcement
Officers have been authorized to purchase firearms which might be California "assault weapons" for duty use, if they get a letter on department letterhead and signed by an appropriate official - Penal Code 12280(f)(2):
(2) Subdivisions (a), (b), and (c) shall not prohibit the delivery, transfer, or sale of an assault weapon or a .50 BMG rifle to, or the possession of an assault weapon or a .50 BMG rifle by, a sworn peace officer member of an agency specified in subdivision (e) if the peace officer is authorized by his or her employer to possess or receive the assault weapon or the .50 BMG rifle. Required authorization is defined as verifiable written certification from the head of the agency, identifying the recipient or possessor of the assault weapon as a peace officer and authorizing him or her to receive or possess the specific assault weapon. For this exemption to apply, in the case of a peace officer who possesses or receives the assault weapon prior to January 1, 2002, the officer shall register the assault weapon pursuant to Section 12285 on or before April 1, 2002, and in the case of a peace officer who possesses or receives the assault weapon on or after January 1, 2002, the officer shall register the assault weapon pursuant to Section 12285 not later than 90 days after possession or receipt. In the case of a peace officer who possesses or receives a .50 BMG rifle on or before January 1, 2005, the officer shall register the .50 BMG rifle on or before April 30, 2006. In the case of a peace officer who possesses or receives a .50 BMG rifle after January 1, 2005, the officer shall register the .50 BMG rifle not later than one year after possession or receipt. The peace officer must include with the registration, a copy of the authorization required pursuant to this paragraph.