You’ve heard us say time and time again that this is not just about gun rights; that this is a fight for civil rights. No more is this more evident than in some of the most contentious items debated as a part of the 2017-18 California State Budget.
There was a lot of buzz throughout the Capitol Building about AB 103, the Public Safety Omnibus bill. As a budget Trailer Bill, AB 103 is supposed to include language to implement items funded in the budget. But as is often the case, legislators used the bill to push through controversial policy changes that have nothing to do with the budget.
In this case, AB 103 would establish a new state crime against owning, purchasing, receiving, possessing, or having under his or her custody or control a firearm or ammunition if the person has a current felony warrant or a prohibiting misdemeanor warrant.
This means that simply being accused of a crime and owning or possessing a firearm would automatically make someone guilty of a crime; whether or not they knew they had a warrant, which made them prohibited; or whether or not they are actually convicted of the crime for which the warrant was issued.
Some members of the California Assembly understood this due process issue and expressed their concerns during the floor debate on the measure.
“You are talking about stripping someone’s Constitutional rights,” Asm. Melissa Melendez said. “Since when are you guilty before you’ve even been convicted in this state?”
Asm. Marie Waldron rattled off a long list of questions that had yet to be considered, because, as she noted, AB 103 was never heard in a policy committee, “Is it constitutional to make someone a felon simply because they have been accused of a felony crime? Does the person have to ‘ knowingly’ have a warrant? Does the person receive any notification? Does the subject have any time to remedy their status before they become guilty of the crime of possession?”
As you can guess, no one answered her and her questions went ignored as the bill’s author read from a pre-written statement that amounted to: “Nothing to see here. Move along.”
The good news is that while Democratic Legislators seem to be clueless, there are those on that side of the aisle who now seem to understand what is wrong with this and are willing to address it with cleanup language. Our conversations with the Department of Justice, the Governor’s Office and key legislative staffers given us hope. But we are taking nothing for granted.
Also included in this year’s budget were significant increases in DOJ’s budget to support the implementation of AB 1135 & SB 880 (Bullet Button Bans), as well as AB 875 (Ghost Gun Registration). The increased amounts far exceed that was originally projected to implement these measures and would need to be borrowed from the Firearms Safety Certificate Fund. This is because they have already emptied out the Dealer Record of Sale (DROS) Fund to pay for other programs meant to stifle the rights of gun owners.
Finally, DOJ requested and received a six month extension on the Bullet Button Assault Weapon Registration Deadline. This is a good thing for owners of these firearms. But we believe it was was largely requested because they are still trying to figure out how to implement the law.
The Budget and all the trailer bills (including AB 103) are currently on the governor’s desk awaiting his signature. You can send Governor Brown an email urging a veto on AB 103 below: