California Struggles to Implement New Gun-Control Measures

'These delays are really just a symptom of how insanely overbroad and complicated the system has become'

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California has faced a number of setbacks in implementing the state's latest gun-control measures, causing a number of deadlines to be pushed back and leaving some measures in legal limbo.

After passing laws that expand the definition of "assault weapon" and make it illegal to possess gun magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition, the state is facing myriad problems in trying to enforce the new laws. The first trouble came when the California Department of Justice (DOJ) attempted to draft their plan to register all of the rifles in California which have "bullet button" reloading devices and other rifles that would fall under the state's expanded assault weapons ban. On June 26, the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) determined that the DOJ had improperly sought to avoid the public comment period on the plan. That caused the deadline for registration to be pushed back six months.

Then, on June 29, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction blocking the enforcement of the state's gun magazine confiscation plan.

"The regulation is neither presumptively legal nor longstanding," U.S. District Judge Roger T. Benitez said in his ruling. "The statute hits close to the core of the Second Amendment and is more than a slight burden. When the simple test of Heller is applied, a test that persons of common intelligence can understand, the statute is adjudged an unconstitutional abridgment."

Another troubled part of California's new gun-control regime is a plan to require all ammunition sales be done through specially licensed dealers. By July 1 those who wanted to apply for the license to sell ammunition were supposed to be able to apply online, and the DOJ was supposed to have an online database of licensed dealers up and running. Neither the online license application portal nor the seller database were up and the regulations governing the licensing process were just made public on Monday. That means the process will likely take several more months to complete despite the fact that it will be illegal to purchase ammunition from anyone without the currently nonexistent ammunition dealer license on January 1, 2018.

Gun rights groups, which have labeled the new gun-control measures passed in 2016 the "Gunpocalypse," have challenged the various new regulations. The California Rifle and Pistol Association, with backing from the National Rifle Association, filed the suit against the magazine confiscation plan that resulted in the Benitez ruling. The Firearms Policy Coalition has filed a suit against the DOJ over their refusal to publicly release their proposed assault-weapons regulations.

Brandon Combs, president of the Firearms Policy Coalition, said the main problem facing the state's efforts to flesh out their new gun-control measures is how complicated they are.

"California governor Jerry Brown, Gavin Newsom, and the state's legislature have created a system of gun-control laws that are so complicated and so full of problems that the attorney general and thousands of DOJ lawyers can't figure out how to make them work without illegally creating new regulations," Combs told the Free Beacon. "I think that a number of things are contributing to the delays, including the fact that DOJ doesn't really want people to exercise their right to keep and bear arms. They don't prioritize civil rights, especially ones they don't like."

Combs said he believes it will take the state several years to figure out how to make the new gun-control measures workable.

"I think that California's gun-control laws have finally become so complicated that we're now in probably a two- to three-year period of the state trying to figure out how to clean up the mess it made and make the laws enforceable," he said. "These delays are really just a symptom of how insanely overbroad and complicated the system has become."

He said that the reason the laws have become so complicated is to hide the true intentions of California legislators.

"Really, all of this is just layering lipstick on the gun-control pig," Combs said. "It's not that difficult to ban guns or people, but they are trying to do it in a way that makes it look like they are not. So, delays like this is what you get when gun-control proponents can't help but be dishonest about the laws they're passing."

Gun-control groups have not expressed much public concern over the delays and setbacks. The 2016 California gun-control measures represented a bright spot for the movement in a year that largely favored the efforts of gun-rights groups. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence did not immediately return a request for comment from the Washington Free Beacon but previously said they were not worried about the delayed implementation of new assault-weapon regulations.

"I don't see this as a catastrophe," Amanda Wilcox, legislative chair of the Brady Campaign's California chapter, told the Trace. "It's a setback, but I take the long-term view. The important thing is that people can't buy [bullet-button firearms]."

The California DOJ did not respond to a request for comment.

Stephen Gutowski   Email Stephen | Full Bio | RSS
Stephen Gutowski is a staff writer for the Washington Free Beacon. He founded his own site as a junior in college and has been writing about news and politics since that time. He spent 4 years with the Media Research Center and was most recently with the Capitol City Project. His email address is Gutowski@FreeBeacon.com. His twitter handle is @StephenGutowski.

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