New California gun law to close single-shot exemption loophole goes into effect

Several new California laws aimed at firearm safety go into effect Thursday. Among them is Assembly Bill 1964, which bans the sale of single-shot handguns modified from a semi-automatic rate of fire.

As of Wednesday, gun shops were still able to make these modifications, but once the law goes into effect Jan. 1 the practice will be restricted to break-top or bolt-action guns only.

“Most people can’t deny HK makes a great gun,” said Jeff Bregman, owner of American Gun Works in Glendale. “The P30 and the HK45 are great guns. I can’t sell them because they’re not on the California certified list.”

The Roster of Handguns Certified for Sale lists state-approved firearms deemed safe enough for ownership in California. Since the list was implemented in 2001, any handgun not on the list can’t be manufactured or imported into the state. Those guns which manufacturers sought for inclusion have to pass firing, safety and drop tests. Manufacturers must also pay a fee to keep the guns on the list and if payment lapses, the guns automatically drop off the list.        

In order to be able to sell those guns, Bregman and other gunsmiths would have to remove the gun’s magazine and magazine catch, put a block in the magazine well and make a modification to the barrel, Bregman told Guns.com.

“Then, of course, after they take the delivery, they leave the store and they bring it back to us and we can put all the parts back in that we took off to make it a single-shot and turn it right back,” Bregman said. “So now they have a semi-automatic pistol in the caliber that they want in the configuration that they want. It also allows people to get that wondrous device called a single-shot AR-15 or AK-47 pistol.”

Bregmen hasn’t done many of those modifications because the labor isn’t worth the money he’d be able to charge.   

Although Bregman has been making money off of the modifications, he’s happy to see them go, calling the law “a double-edged sword.”

Bregman typically charges a flat fee of $75 for the single-shot modifications, unless specialized parts are needed. The gun shop owner recently had to modify two Ruger SR22s and needed to order barrels from a third party vendor.

Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill in July, effectively halting the influx of what the state now considers unsafe single-shot handguns.

The bill’s lead author, Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, said that 18,000 “unsafe” single-shot handguns were transferred in the state in 2013.

Gun control groups called the passing of AB 1964 a win, saying the “priority bill” closed a loophole in California law.

“Gun dealers in California have been skirting the law and selling handguns without child safety features, putting profits over the safety of Californians,” Nick and Amanda Wilcox, legislation and policy chairs of the California Chapters of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, told the LA Times.

Bregman said the state’s prohibition of “unsafe” guns and its fee requirements on manufacturers is essentially a shakedown.

“People aren’t arguing with the state of California for the right reasons,” Bregman said. “They’re not going after the state of California for extortion, they’re not going after the state of California for interference in commerce, they’re just not going after the state of California for the proper reasons.”

People are after the state claiming it’s violating the Second Amendment, Bregman said, but the new law isn’t going to affect a majority of individual gun owners.

“I hate it because it’s restricting guns that could otherwise be sold to Californians because they’re not on the stupid list,” Bregman said. “You have to design the guns to meet the engineering specifications developed by that esteemed body called the California Legislature. Then they have to submit them for drop testing and three guns for destructive testing, along with primed cartridges so they can determine if it goes off at any time during the testing and then they have to pay an annual fee.”

Ultimately, it’s the gun manufacturers that are being squeezed by the state, Bregman said.

“They figure if they can get rid of the gun shops no one will be able to buy ammo, nobody will be able to buy new guns and guns will hopefully disappear out of California,” Bregman said.