After California changed their gun laws in 2016 to require registration of so-called assault weapons (along with re-defining AW’s, requiring serial numbers on all firearms, doing away with an AW grandfathering provision, and more), many law-abiding gun owners were concerned that by complying with the law they would be essentially signing up for gun confiscation. Of course, then-Attorney General Kamala Harris pooh-poohed their concerns.
On Tuesday, one California gun owner’s guns were confiscated by California Department of Justice agents who showed up at his house in an unmarked vehicle and used photographs he provided to the DOJ in the AW registration process as evidence he’d “manufactured an unsafe handgun” to confiscate two AR pistols he’d built from 80 percent lowers.
(Side note: California law requires that all pistols and handguns manufactured or sold in the state pass drop safety and firing tests administered by an independent laboratory, in addition to other requirements, to be labeled “not unsafe.”)
The owner recorded his interaction with law enforcement then posted the video on Reddit. Additional information about the history of the guns and the steps the owner took to comply with the law came out in the subsequent thread, which has been distilled by Real Write Winger:
“He allegedly completed an unfinished lower receiver (80% lower) and assembled a single shot AR pistol with a fixed 0rd magazine back in 2012 using a magazine locking device, which was one of two legal avenues to obtain an AR pistol at the time. The other way was to buy a single shot AR pistol from a gun store, which you could later modify to be semiautomatic. There was a debate whether those who completed an 80% lower first into a single shot pistol then to a semiauto were ‘manufacturing an unsafe handgun’ (not going to get completely into the weeds of CA gun laws here).”
“A few gun laws later, he was required to register any pistol with a magazine locking device that used a tool to remove the magazine as an ‘assault weapon.’ In order to do that, being a law abiding law abider he had to put a serial number on his pistols. He “voluntarily registered” his pistols (which is not the same as registering it as an assault weapon), adding his own serial numbers per federal guidelines, and submitted the paperwork to CADOJ. His application was still pending.”
So, he followed all of the rules to be law-abiding, registered his weapons online, and was waiting to receive confirmation that his application had gone through when officers arrived at his home.
Unfortunately for this gun owner, we now know what the DOJ’s position will be on AR pistols built from an 80% lower then converted into semiauto, and whether they will use information on AW registrations as probable cause to confiscate firearms:
“Apparently, CADOJ believes if someone builds an AR pistol from an 80% lower and makes it semiauto, they are in violation of the ‘manufacturing an unsafe handgun’ law, and using his AW registration as probable cause sent two law enforcers to his home and confiscated his AR pistols. When he threw their oath to uphold and defend the constitution in their face, they said, ‘just doing our jobs’ and ‘we’re not lawyers, just enforcing the law, figure it out in court.'”
California gun owners have learned over the years that DOJ bureaucrats, for the most part, are firearm illiterate. Now that these bureaucrats have the power to look at a photograph attached to an AW registration and unilaterally determine whether the firearm shown has parts that aren’t CA legal and send armed agents to someone’s home to confiscate those firearms is terrifying. Their motto is seize first, ask questions later. It also has a chilling effect on the (already very low) willingness of California gun owners to comply with additional gun regulations.
This should also frighten law enforcement officers and their families. With this type of practice, the DOJ is putting law enforcement in harm’s way by sending them unannounced to seize guns from someone who might not feel like handing their guns over.
There are no statistics yet on how many gang members and drug dealers have registered their AW’s with the state. (/sarc)
Watch the video of the encounter below:
UPDATE (2/15/2019, 7:00 PM PST): Real Write Winger has updated his post to clarify the CADOJ’s position on altering a single shot pistol.
Per the CADOJ:
Alterations of a single shot pistol (i.e. changing upper receivers, connecting gas tubes) may also be considered manufacturing an unsafe handgun. See California Penal Code sections 31900-31910 for the definition of unsafe handguns and 32000(a) for more information on illegal acts involving unsafe handguns.
This means ANY AR pistol that was single shot, converted to semiauto, and registered as a semiauto assault weapon may be considered in violation of the law.
If you registered an AR pistol as a semiauto assault weapon, you need to lawyer up and/or stick a 0rd sled mag back in to make it single shot or disassemble it.