Gun Owners Complain About "Bullet Button" Registration in CA

Thousands Applied by July 1 Deadline

Jenna Lane
July 18, 2018 - 5:39 pm

California gun owners have been complying -- by the thousands -- with a new law that required them to register certain firearms by July 1.

The problem, according to gun rights groups opposing the law, is that such weapons in the state may number in the millions.

The so-called "bullet button" law was passed after the mass shooting in San Bernardino in 2015. It bans the sale of semi-automatic rifles with that quick-reload capability, and requires anyone who already has them to register them. Owners of close to 70,000 have signed up over the last year. 

"The law is the law and I think the honest person who owns a firearm is going to try to comply with it," says Dave Workman, editor of the Second Amendment Foundation's magazine. 

At the same time, he says, "I talk to gun owners who say this is an example of how the law has gotten incrementally tighter with really no tangible results other than to inconvenience a lot of gun owners."

The foundation joined a lawsuit on behalf of owners who claim the California Department of Justice website crashed when they tried to register. 

Brandon Combs with the Firearms Policy Coalition, another plaintiff in the suit, believes processing all the applications would take years -- if the system worked.

"Virtually everyone thinks there's probably somewhere between 1.5 million and 3 million of these kinds of firearms in the state of California," Combs says. "You're looking at about 60,000 total in the system. I think you're looking at a real compliance rate of around 3 percent."

The attorney general's office did not respond to requests for comment.

The author of the law, San Rafael Assemblyman Marc Levine, told KCBS, "We've seen a huge uptake in lawful owners of bullet-button-enabled AR-15s who have attempted to register. We've had about 68,000 applications. This has blown away expectations. I'm encouraged by it and expect to see a whole lot more."

He expressed hope that the state Department of Justice could increase its staffing to handle the volume. 

Asked about the Firearms Policy Coalition research suggesting that 68,000 is a fraction of the total weapons in California eligible for registration, Levine said, "I'm glad that they're making estimates as to how many more are out there. We need to know where they are so that there can be accountability with these weapons that have been used to commit mass violence and kill innocent victims across California and of course the country."