The California Office of Administrative Law recently approved proposed regulations submitted by the California Department of Justice that expand the definition and registration requirements for “assault weapons” under California law. In 2016, the California Legislature altered the definition of “assault weapon” for pistols and rifles to eliminate the “bullet button” exception to California’s “assault weapons” prohibition. The amendment permits the California DOJ to bypass formal rule-making procedures including public comment on regulations concerning the registration process for newly-defined “assault weapons” (i.e., pistols and rifles that previously were not considered “assault weapons” because the magazine could only be detached with a “bullet-button”). The California DOJ, however, went further than statutorily authorized and issued wide-ranging regulations that define or re-define numerous terms under the “assault weapons” statute and, in some instances, expand the definition of “assault weapon” beyond what the legislature authorized. No public comment period was provided for these regulations. The 67-page DOJ document setting forth the cumbersome regulations is sure to generate confusion for California firearm owners and retailers as well as litigation challenging their legality.

The expansion of California rules by the state’s executive branch echoes a similar attempt last July by the Massachusetts Attorney General to expand what is considered an “assault weapon” under Massachusetts law through a purported “guidance letter” that completely by-passed the Commonwealth’s public rule-making process. The “guidance letter” caused massive confusion among firearm retailers and consumers in Massachusetts. Firearms retailers and owners in Massachusetts have challenged the constitutionality of the Attorney General’s actions in a lawsuit filed in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts.

Congressman Chris Collins (NY) has recently introduced the Second Amendment Guarantee Act (“SAGA”), which would broadly prohibit state and local firearms laws for rifles and shotguns that are stricter than federal firearms laws. This law would void assault weapons bans such as those in California and Massachusetts, and was introduced by Congressman Collins specifically to target New York’s SAFE act.

Renzulli Law Firm is experienced in counseling firearm manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and owners on compliance with federal and state firearms laws. For more information, please contact John Renzulli or Christopher Renzulli.