PARALLEL UNIVERSE: California Gun Bill Would Impact Legal Disposition of Firearm Collections by Law-Abiding Citizens

By David M. Kinchen


BREAKING NEWS: Governor Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown on Friday, Oct. 11, 2013,  vetoed AB 169, along with several other gun bills sent to him for signatures or vetoes.

Beware of unintended consequences; they have the power to harm innocent people. Take California's Assembly Bill 169 (AB 169) now on the desk of Gov. Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown for his signature or veto.


The National Rifle Association (NRA) (full disclosure, I'm a member)  has urged Brown to veto the bill, which has unintended consequences that would impact disposal of gun collections:

Quoting from  the NRA letter:  "By limiting transfers [of firearms] to two per year, many gun owners would be left without recourse under AB 169. A gun owner with 20 "off roster" handguns would need 10 years to sell his or her guns through a licensed dealer."

As Oct. 4, 2013, Gov. Jerry Brown has taken no action on this or other gun control bills on his desk:

 Assembly Bill 169 has unintended consequences that will primarily hurt widows and retirees. It will turn previously law abiding folks into criminals, without their knowledge. Text from the bill: "The delivery of a pistol, revolver, or other firearm capable of being concealed upon a person to a (licensed dealer) for the purpose of a consignment sale or as collateral for a pawnbroker loan, pursuant to this subdivision, is limited to a total of two firearms per person, per calendar year."

I was alerted to the existence of AB 169 by a friend in Commerce, TX, a college town east of Dallas. He's a gun owner, of course -- most Texans are -- and emailed me that AB 169 "would literally prevent you from selling your handguns.

Here's a link to the text and official history of the bill, authored by  Assemblymember Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento:

And here's how Dickinson describes it on his own website:


Dickinson Bill to Limit Guns Available for Sale Approved by Legislature, Sent to Governor

Sacramento – Today, Assembly Bill 169 authored by Assemblymember Roger Dickinson (D-Sacramento) was given final approval by the State Assembly on a 45-30 vote. The bill would close the loophole in law that currently allows unlimited private party transfers of “unsafe handguns” to individuals not eligible to buy them. It further closes a loophole that presently allows some buyers to purchase an unsafe handgun if that handgun was previously modified to be a single shot weapon. The bill now goes to Governor Brown for his action.

“AB 169 will keep non-rostered, unsafe handguns out of the hands of people who don't have a legitimate and lawful reason to own them. By limiting the guns available for sale we can further protect our families and our communities from gun violence,” said Dickinson.

The California Department of Justice maintains a roster of handguns that are safe to operate under California law. These guns meet all statutory safety standards, and pass safety tests such as the drop test. Handguns not on the roster (i.e. non-rostered handguns), also known as unsafe handguns, are handguns most people cannot buy from a manufacturer through a licensed dealer.

However, current law has exemptions for a number of specified parties such as law enforcement, curio and relic dealers, gunsmiths, and movie prop houses. The law also allows private parties who legally own an unsafe handgun to sell these weapons to any other private party though a licensed dealer without limitations. These exemptions have permitted a nearly free trade of unsafe handguns, making current restrictions under the law practically meaningless.

AB 169 would close this loophole. The bill limits transfers of “unsafe handguns” by one private party to another private party through a licensed dealer to only two transfers per year. While private parties may legally own an “unsafe handgun,” having acquired it prior to the enactment of the unsafe handgun law, or acquiring it under one of the many exemptions in the law, this provision will reduce the overall level of trade in these guns among private parties.

AB 169 also closes another loophole that allows anyone to purchase an unsafe handgun if that handgun was modified to be a single shot weapon before the buyer took delivery from a licensed dealer. This single shot modification is easily undone, and the loophole provides an easy way for anyone to circumvent the law.

On June 1, 2012, the US Attorney’s office revealed the indictment of two Sacramento County sheriff's deputies accused of operating an illegal gun trade in the Sacramento area and illegally selling dozens of weapons – some to criminals (more info). And on August 28, 2012, one of the former Sacramento County Sheriff's Deputies pleaded guilty in federal court to dealing in firearms without a license (more info).

According to the FBI, California had the highest number of total gun deaths out of any state last year, accounting for 68% of all gun murders in the United States. In the U.S., 32 men, women, and children are murdered every day with guns. In California, over 7,700 people are shot every year. U.S. homicide rates are 6.9 times higher than rates in 22 other populous high-income countries combined.

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One problem with AB 169 -- as I read the bill -- is that many "non-roster" guns are really old models of current guns, or guns that are obsolete or old enough to be listed under the federal government's "Curio and Relics" category. If you've ever watched the popular "Pawn Stars" TV show, you'll frequently hear from Rick, the owner,  that he can't buy guns made after a certain date in the 1890s because they require a FFL (Federal Firearms License), which he doesn't have.  He frequently buys Civil War era guns, which fall under the C&R rule.  At least as I read it,  AB 169 "closes the loophole" afforded by the federal C&R rule, so collectors -- law abiding people  -- would be affected by the bill. The danger, of course, is that other states (not Texas; it won't happen here) may be tempted to follow the example of the Golden State and enact similar legislation.