California Senator Leland Yee's controversial bill, SB 249 - also known as or an amendment to California's assault weapon ban - is scheduled to be heard by the State Assembly's Appropriations Committee this Thursday, Aug. 16.
If the bill is pushed forward by the committee and voted on by the Assembly before Friday night at midnight, it could be signed into law.
If it is not voted on by Friday night at midnight, the bill is "dead" for 2012, meaning it can't be reintroduced until next year.
Last month, the bill was approved by the Assembly Public Safety Committee.
Last week, Yee (D-San Mateo/San Francisco) submitted amendments to the bill, including a stricter definition of what would be made illegal under the bill if it is signed into state law.
SB 249 / California's 'Assault Weapons' Ban
Currently, assault weapons are illegal in California. The law currently defines an "assault weapon" as a semi-automatic rifle with both a pistol grip and a detachable magazine, among other features. In other words, a gun's magazine must be "fixed" according to the specifications of the state law in order to be legal.
To be considered "fixed," a magazine cannot be easily detached without either disassembling the gun or the use of a tool.
However, many gun manufacturers have designed guns with so-called "bullet buttons" in order to get around the law and be considered legal under California law.
A "bullet button" is designed to replace a normal magazine release button with a recessed button that can only be accessed through the use of a tool - such as, the tip of a bullet, or a small tool shaped like a nail or pick.
The bullet button adds a minimum of five to 10 seconds onto the time it would normally take a shooter using a gun with a detachable magazine to reload.
Yee wants guns with bullet buttons banned. In particular, since the recent mass shootings and in Wisconsin, Yee is pushing his bill even harder.
However, the California Department of Justice has declared on numerous occasions that semi-automatic rifles modified with a bullet button are considered to have "fixed" magazines, and therefore are legal under California law.
Both Yee and the nonprofit Violence Policy Center in Washington, D.C. have sent out several press releases and statements declaring that the types of guns Yee wants banned under his bill are "almost identical" to the ones used by accused shooter James Holmes in Colorado, and "possibly identical" to firearms used in Wisconsin.
However, several news reports confirm that the gun used by accused shooter Wade Michael Page in the Wisconsin Sikh temple was, in fact, a 9mm handgun that he purchased legally. The gun used by accused shooter James Holmes in Aurora, Colo. was a AR-15 assault rifle, which are already illegal in California because they do not have bullet buttons, and feature detachable magazines.
Under Yee's bill, SB 249, guns with "bullet buttons" would also be classified as assault weapons, and therefore be made illegal.
Recently, California Attorney General Kamala Harris - the former head district attorney of San Francisco - endorsed Yee's bill.
Confiscation Without Recompensation?
Many who are passionately opposed to SB 249 worry that Yee's bill would mean, by law, authorities would be allowed to confiscate "assault weapons" or guns with "bullet buttons" without reimbursing citizens for the price they paid for the guns, because the law declares them "public nuisances."
Members of the "Stop SB 249" campaign - a self-proclaimed "grassroots coalition of The Calguns Foundation, the California Association of Federal Firearms Licensees (Cal-FFL), and thousands of interested Californians" - posted language from Yee's proposed bill on the group's website explaining this fear.
"No reimbursement is required by this act, pursuant to Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution, because the only costs that may be incurred by a local agency or school district will be incurred because this act creates a new crime or infraction, eliminates a crime or infraction, or changes the penalty for a crime or infraction, within the meaning of Section 17556 of the Government Code, or changes the definition of a crime within the meaning of Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution."
Opposition to SB 249
Many groups, such as the National Rifle Association, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the California Rifle and Pistol Association, the CalGuns Foundation, and the Stop SB249 campaign have started petitions, phone banks, e-mail campaigns and other efforts to try and get SB 249 killed.
Besides being morally and constitutionally opposed to the bill, many involved in these campaigns also say the bill and its specific language is "hastily conceived" and that the state of California, with its current fiscal crisis, can't afford to spend the money necessary to get such a bill passed through the legislature - campaign literature from Stop SB249 suggests the minimum cost could be anywhere from $200,000 to $400,000 just to implement the changes in regulation that would be required if the bill is signed into law.
Have you commented on or voted in our SB 249 poll? With high crime in Gilroy, do you think it's a good idea? Tell us in the comments!