Bills push for ammo tax, assault weapon seizure

Among the gun-control bills being rolled out by Assembly Democrats are a pair from a freshman East Bay lawmaker to tax ammunition and perhaps move toward confiscating banned assault weapons.

Assemblyman Rob Bonta’s AB 187 would place a tax on the sale of ammunition in California with proceeds going to a high-crime prevention fund that would be used in targeted areas suffering from high violent crime rates.

“In communities like Oakland and Stockton, parents are afraid to let their children play outside while gun violence ravages the streets,” Bonta, D-Oakland, said in a news release. “We must take swift action to get these communities the resources they need, and in AB 187 I propose to do so through a tax on ammunition.”

Far more controversial is Bonta’s AB 174, which for the moment reads as follows:

Under current law, certain banned weapons are permitted under various “grandfathering in” clauses. It is the intent of the Legislature to subsequently amend this measure to include provisions that would end all of those exemptions.

Rob Bonta“State laws on the books currently restrict the purchase and sale of assault weapons and large capacity magazines, but almost all laws only apply on a going-forward basis and exempted weapons remain on our streets,” Bonta said. “With AB 174 we will closely examine this loophole and do what’s right for the children and people of California.”

Ending any grandfather clauses presumably would mean a mandatory buyback of all banned assault weapons and large-capacity magazines – just the kind of registration-driven confiscation that gun-rights advocates have been warning about for decades, and that they’ve sworn to resist.

According to the state Justice Department, 77,103 Californians own 166,424 registered, grandfathered assault weapons.

Other Assembly bills touted today include:

    AB 169 by Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, to prohibit people who’ve been exempted from restrictions on buying guns that the state designated as unsafe from selling or transferring those guns to anyone who isn’t also exempt. California maintains a list of state-tested handguns that are approved for sale in the state.
    AB 170 by Assemblyman Steven Bradford, D-Gardena, would allow only individuals – not corporations or other associations – to be issued permits for assault weapons and machine guns. “In the same way that we prohibit sharing driver licenses, we should not allow dangerous weapons to be passed from hand to hand within an organization. One person, one permit just makes sense,” Bradford said.

And, yet to be introduced:

    A bill from Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Salinas, to prohibit those involved in gun or ammunition trafficking from possessing any guns or ammo for 10 years.
    A bill from Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, to tighten gun-safety laws already in place by adding a safe-storage requirement when a person prohibited from gun possession is living in the home. Ammiano’s bill also would let the state Justice Department extend the state’s 10-day waiting period when necessary for background checks.
    Another bill from Dickinson also to impose an ammunition tax – this one at a nickel per bullet, with proceeds going to an existing program that screens young children in grades 1 through 3 for mild to moderate mental illness and then intervenes to help those in need.
    A third bill from Dickinson to require CalPERS and CalSTRS to divest any existing pension fund investments from companies that manufacture, sell, distribute or market firearms or ammunition, and to prohibit any such investments in the future.

“Although California already has some of the nation’s best laws to reduce the incidence of violent and fatal shootings, we are always prepared to move when we can improve the safety of our communities and families,” Ammiano, who chairs the Assembly Public Safety Committee, said in a news release. “The Assembly is acting on this challenge and looks forward to seeing other proposals from the Senate. We will work with the other house to protect Californians from those who would misuse weapons. We will take a careful look at each bill when it comes to the committee.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • Max Allstädt

    Seizing registered assault weapons is a great way to spark a needless and expensive protracted legal battle about ex-post facto laws. It’s also a great way to provoke a few 2nd amendment absolutists to start shooting at law enforcement. I would also expect a lot of assault weapons to suddenly be reported stolen if this proposal gets scheduled for a vote.

    And it’s misguided anyway. Assault weapons kill fewer Californians than knives. Handguns are the problem. Illegally owned handguns in urban areas are responsible for the majority of California murders and American murders.

    So if Mr. Bonta wants to get tough on gun crime and have an actual effect, he needs to go after handguns, particularly illegal ones.

    A simple proposal: anyone in California who is convicted of having an illegal gun or of using any gun in a crime should be subject to an extended parole search period. Get caught with an unregistered gun? Get convicted of committing a crime with a gun? The police should be able to stop and search you for weapons, at will, for a minimum of five years after your out of jail, and if you are convicted but not sentenced to jail, that five year period should begin the moment you’re convicted.

  • Sara

    Then prosecute criminals and make tougher laws on grabbers, those owning guns illegally, make carrying a concealed loaded weapon without a permit a wobbler felony instead of a misdemeanor!!! Do you realize that less than two percent of all shootings happen with guns owned by law abiding citizens………….
    The banning of assault weapons is not the answer, prosecuting criminals and not law abiding citizens is.

  • Just for Info

    With over 26,000 firearms and ammo regulating laws already on the books why don’t they just enforce them instead of continually trying to punish honest, law abiding citizens? There are penalty enhancements for using a firearm in the commission of a crime but those enhancements are regularly the FIRST thing negotiated away in an attempt to get suspects to plead guilty so DAs can rack up “conviction” statistics for their next election. JUST ENFORCE ENHANCEMENT LAWS and all the other laws and leave honest citizens alone!!! Control and tax, that’s all these politicians want to do to citizens. As more and more disgusted citizens leave Calif who will they then tax to make up the deficits created by the exodus?

  • JohnW

    Might have some problems with that one about mandatory buyback of grandfathered assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

    Then again, the president did say, “I’m gonna get the guns.” Of course, that was President Andrew Shepherd in the movie, “The American President.”

  • JohnW

    Re #3 Just For Info Says

    What gun laws are on the books that aren’t being enforced?

  • Elwood

    A double action revolver is a semi-automatic weapon. You pull the trigger once, one bullet fires, just like the dreaded AR15.

  • JohnW

    Re: #6 Elwood Says

    Okay, I’m no expert on the characteristics of the AR15 vs handguns and other semi-automatics. If the only thing different about the AR15 is that it’s scary-looking, then perhaps the singular obsession with banning AR15s, while ignoring other semi-automatics, is a bit misguided.

    However, I read the other day that more police departments are equipping patrol cars with AR15s, so that the good guys can match the bad guys. Apparently, SWAT teams already use them, but not most regular cops. My question, then, is this. If the AR15 is no different than other semi-automatics in terms of firepower, lethality or other attributes, why are the pros going to the AR15? For example, can you get off 100 rounds per minute with a semi-automatic handgun?

    Whatever the reasons, the AR15 seems to be a popular choice among those who do these mass killings.

  • Bruce R. Peterson, Lafayette

    Now California will have bootlegged ammo, to go with the bootlegged cigarettes.

  • Elwood

    I think more PDs are equipping with the AR15 because it’s more selective than a shotgun. Less chance of collateral damage.

    The only way you could get off 100 rounds per minute with an AR15 would be if you had a 100 round clip which would make the weapon heavy and unwieldy for police use.

    I have difficulty visualizing a situation where a PD would want 100 round per minute capability.

  • JohnW

    Re: #9

    You’re probably right about the AR15 vs shotguns.

    Whether or not the police use the high capacity magazines, the bad guys do. I don’t know if there is a difference in the trigger sensitivity on an AR15 compared with other semi-automatics, but the ability to attach the high capacity magazine seems, by itself, to be a good reason to single out that type of weapon for restrictions.

  • Elwood

    John, a high capacity magazine can be attached to lots of weapons, not just the AR15.

    Other than its use in a couple of notorious massacres and its ubiquity I remain puzzled as to why this one weapon has been singled out as the boogeyman of weapons.

  • RR senile columnist

    Our Sac solons never pass up a headline opportunity to make a new law. What Newtown and Aurora have to do with Stockton and Oakland only a pol could explain.

  • JR

    LOL, yet another pro-criminal safety law to make victims defenseless through punitive taxation added to already-punitive taxation. AB187 is pro-PC187.

  • JohnW

    Re: 11 Elwood

    If I had to choose between doing something about military-style assault rifles or Uzi look-alikes on the one hand, and high capacity magazines on the other hand, I vote for restricting the magazines and the ability of a spent magazine to be quickly changed out for a new one.

    The AR15, the civilian semi-automatic version of the M16, is designed by the manufacturer to look and be scary. They market it that way. So, why be surprised that it gets all the attention?

    “Other than its use in a couple of notorious massacres…” Reminds me of the line, “Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?”

  • Rex

    A true Communist and an enemy of the People of the United States of America.

  • TestAhead

    Re: #7 John,

    That is a thoughtful reply. The big difference is at the operational level.

    The law enforcement models are automatic weapons, whereas the civilian models are semi-automatic.

    That is the difference.

  • Lou

    “In communities like Oakland and Stockton, parents are afraid to let their children play outside while gun violence ravages the streets,” Bonta, D-Oakland, said

    gun violence ravages the streets, REALLY?

  • Varn Ford

    Regarding the confiscation of REGISTERED ASSAULT WEAPONS, the original intent of this registration was so that these firearms would not have to be turned in/confiscated/ taken out-of-state/etc. Those who registered these firearms were told that they would be grandfathered and thereby would be able to be kept by their owners.

    Now, someone is proposing going back on this statement by a threatened confiscation/buy back. Many of these AR type firearms are valused in the $1000 to $2000 range. Does the state actually propose to buy back all of these expensive firearms. Many are used in competitive target matches and sre classified as Modern sporting rifles. Must these competitive shooters now curtail their hobby?

    There is a saying, “Registration leads to confiscation.” If this indeed happens in California and example will be made and then literally no one will ever register a firearm again. If California does this it will be a lesson learned by all not to register any firearm for it will ultimately lead to confiscation.

    Those who ignored the law and decided not to register their modern sporting rifles as assault weapons will be the winners here. The loosers will be those who gratiously followed the law paid the fees and registered their firearms, trusting the state to do the right thing. This is too bad that such legislators might even be considering such a draconian measure which is entirely grossly unfair to lawful and peaceful firearms owners who registered their firearms. If this indeed does become law, trust in the state of California will be lost forever.

  • Jay

    I think the real issue here is the 2nd amendment. There seems to be a lot of debate on whether these types of bans are constitutional. Unfortunately for gun grabbers the wording in the second amendment is very clear so in my opinion anyone in politics trying to disarm the public in any way way is going against their oath to the constitution. If they don’t like it then try to amend the constitution. Its not one of those things that is open to interpretation like many laws.

    A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.

    Infringed definition:
    Act so as to limit or undermine (something); encroach on: “infringe on his privacy”.

    I mean I am no politician but its pretty clear that limiting the type of firearms allowed for the people is infringement. As well as limiting the capacity of magazines. Some people would argue the militia topic but if you notice that little comma in between the two sections then you understand it to be a replacement for AND which basically means that this amendment is not just for militias but also for the people so that kind of debunks that discussion.