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California Assault Weapon: 2024 Definition, Laws & Statistic

An assault weapon in California is defined under the state’s Assault Weapons Control Act of 1989 and subsequent amendments. The law categorizes certain firearms as assault weapons based on specific features including a detachable magazine, a pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon, a thumbhole stock, a folding or telescoping stock, and a grenade launcher or flare launcher.
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Collen Clark Published by Collen Clark

Update: Federal Judge Rules California’s Assault Weapons Ban is Unconstitutional

According to NPR, on October 19, 2023 – A federal judge overturned California’s long-standing ban on assault weapons, ruling that the state’s attempt to prohibit sales of semiautomatic guns violates the constitutional right to bear arms. U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez of San Diego acknowledged that firearms like AR-15 rifles are frequently used by criminals but emphasized that they are also owned by law-abiding citizens who rely on them for self-defense [1].

The State of California posits that its ‘assault weapon’ ban, the law challenged here, promotes an important public interest of disarming some mass shooters even though it makes criminals of law-abiding residents who insist on acquiring these firearms for self-defense,” Benitez wrote. “Nevertheless, more than that is required to uphold a ban.

Benitez’s latest ruling would nullify several state statutes related to assault weapons. The state has 10 days to appeal the decision and seek a stay from the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Which Guns Qualify as Assault Weapons in California?

According to the California Department of Justice, starting January 1, 2000, Senate Bill 23, Statutes of 1999, implemented new guidelines for defining assault weapons based on generic characteristics [2].

This legislation mandates that individuals who own or possess firearms falling under the new “assault weapon” definition must register those firearms with the Department of Justice during the one-year period between January 1, 2000, and December 31, 2000.

This bill allows and requires persons who own/possess firearms that fall under the new “assault weapon” definition to register those firearms with the Department of Justice during the one-year period between January 1, 2000 and December 31, 2000 – Stated California Department of Justice

  • A semiautomatic, centerfire rifle capable of accepting a detachable magazine and featuring any of the following:
  • A conspicuously protruding pistol grip.
  • A thumbhole stock.
  • A folding or telescoping stock.
  • A grenade launcher or flare launcher.
  • A flash suppressor.
  • A forward pistol grip.
  • A semiautomatic, centerfire rifle with a fixed magazine that can hold more than 10 rounds.
  • A semiautomatic, centerfire rifle with an overall length of less than 30 inches.
  • A semiautomatic pistol with the ability to accept a detachable magazine and featuring any of the following:
  • A threaded barrel capable of accepting a flash suppressor, forward handgrip, or silencer.
  • A second handgrip.
  • A shroud is attached to or encircles the barrel, allowing the shooter to fire the weapon without burning their hand (excluding a barrel-enclosing slide).
  • The ability to accept a detachable magazine outside of the pistol grip.
  • A semiautomatic pistol with a fixed magazine capacity of more than 10 rounds.
  • A semiautomatic shotgun with both of the following:
  • A folding or telescoping stock.
  • A conspicuously protruding pistol grip, thumbhole stock, or vertical handgrip.
  • A semiautomatic shotgun capable of accepting a detachable magazine.
  • Any shotgun featuring a revolving cylinder.

What Makes a Weapon California Compliant?

California-compliant handguns must pass stringent safety tests, including firing 600 rounds with no more than six malfunctions, ensuring structural integrity without cracks or breakages, and undergoing six drop tests without accidental discharges. California asserts that these measures guarantee only the safest handguns are deemed compliant.

To many, it feels like a sly backdoor method of keeping modern firearms away from law-abiding citizens who just want the best to protect themselves and their families.

California Gun Violence Statistics

  • In California, a gun-related death occurs every three hours, highlighting the significant impact of firearms on the state.
  • Californians living with handgun owners face a heightened risk of homicide, with statistics showing they are more than twice as likely to die from such incidents.
  • California women living with handgun owners are at an increased risk of dying by suicide.
  • Over half of all firearm-related deaths in California are attributed to suicide.
  • Beyond the loss of life, gun violence imposes a substantial financial burden on the state, amounting to approximately $18 billion annually. This translates to nearly $500 per Californian and includes costs associated with hiring police to investigate gun crimes and covering medical expenses for gun-related injuries.

Source: California Department of Justice [3].

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