SB 798 UPDATE – Raise Your Hand If You Trust Kevin de Leon
On June 29, Senator Kevin de Leon altered Senate Bill 798, performing a legislative maneuver aptly referred to as a “gut-and-amend.” The “gutting” involved completely deleting the language of the proposed legislation we in the airsoft community had so vehemently opposed, and amended it by simply replacing it with the following language:
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:
SECTION 1. Section 53071.5 of theGovernment Code, as amended by Section 1 of Chapter 607of the Statutes of 2004, is repealed.
SEC. 2. Section 53071.5 of the Government Code, as amended by Section 35 of Chapter 178of the Statutes of 2010, is repealed.
That’s all of it; just two apparently redundant lines. But, as the old expression tells us, “the devil is in the details.”
The California Government Code section being repealed by SB 798 says, in relevant part:
53071.5. By the enforcement of this section, the Legislature occupies the whole field of regulation of the manufacture, sale, or possession of imitation firearms, as defined [in the California Penal Code], and that section shall preempt and be exclusive of all regulations relating to the manufacture, sale, or possession of imitation firearms, including regulations governing the manufacture, sale, or possession of BB devices and air rifles described in . . . the Penal Code.
In plain language, this section currently prevents local governments such as counties and cities from making their own regulations “relating to the manufacture, sale or possession of imitation firearms,” reserving that right to the sole jurisdiction of the California Legislature.
By repealing Government Code Section 53071.5, SB 798 would open the door for cities and counties to make their own rules regarding “BB devices and air rifles.” Interestingly, this could include paintball markers, since one of the sections referenced by Government Code Section 53071.5 (and therefore defining what devices fall under its purview) is Penal Code Section 16700(a). In that section, “imitation firearm” is defined to include BB guns and any “other device that is so substantially similar in coloration and overall appearance to an existing firearm as to lead a reasonable person to perceive that the devices is a firearm.”
I’m not an attorney, but that certainly sounds like a description of many paintball markers currently being sold.
By the way, contrary to what some are reporting, the repeal of this section does not appear to affect firearms, which are covered under Government Code Section 53071 (only non-firearms are listed by reference in the “point five” section targeted by de Leon for repeal).
So what is Senator de Leon up to? Was he inspired by the June 21 hearing at which Assemblyman Curt Hagman asked him why Los Angeles couldn’t just make its own ordinance and leave the rest of California alone? Or is he setting the stage for something else?
The bigger question: do you trust his intentions? Unless you can answer that with anything but “NO,” you need to continue calling the members of the California Assembly.