Bump stocks have come under intense scrutiny lately, with public officials across the country pushing to have the popular gun accessories banned.
Are bump stocks illegal in California? Yes, and starting in late March 2019, bump stocks will also be illegal under federal law.
California banned bump stocks in 2010 with the passage of Penal Code 32900, which set penalties of up to three years in jail for possessing, manufacturing or lending someone a bump stock within the state.
What Are Bump Stocks?
Bump stocks are accessories that can be added to semiautomatic rifles to increase the rate that they fire.
Bump stocks replace the standard stock, the part of the gun that rests against the holder’s shoulder. They trigger the gun to continuously fire as long as the shooter holds down the trigger and applies pressure to the stock.
They do not convert a semiautomatic rifle into automatic rifles, but they do allow semiautomatic rifles to shoot nearly as fast.
They’re also known as “reciprocating stocks” and “multiburst trigger activators” (the legal term in California law).
Penalties for Possessing a Bump Stock in California
As we mentioned earlier, it’s illegal in California to possess, manufacture, import or sell a bump stock within the state.
Violating PC 32900 is a “wobbler,” meaning that it could be tried as a misdemeanor or felony depending on the facts of the case. As a misdemeanor, possession of a bump stock carries a penalty of a up to one year in county jail.
As a felony, it is punishable by up to three years in jail.
Federal Penalties for Possessing a Bump Stock
In December 2018, Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker announced he had amended the bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms’ regulations to change the definition of a “machine gun” in federal law to include bump stocks.
Bump stocks previously were not classified as machine guns, but starting in March 2019, possession or transfer of bump stocks will be treated the same as machine guns. Bump stock owners will be required to destroy them or surrender them to the ATF.
Possession of a bump stock will carry the same penalties as possession of a machine gun, which includes:
- Sentencing of up to 10 years in Federal Prison, and/or
- Fines of up to $250,000
Legal Defenses for Bump Stock Possession Charges
In California, certain people are legally permitted to possess bump stocks. They are:
- Authorized members of film and television production crews
- Historical societies and museums
- Law enforcement officers
Otherwise, common defenses for possession of a bump stock include lack of knowledge or possession — the defendant didn’t know he or she had the bump stock, or that it belonged to someone else.
As well, it could be that the defendant was on their way to having the bump stock destroyed before encountering police.
Facing firearms offenses can be a stressful and intimidating process, but a skilled criminal defense attorney can help you navigate the judicial system and fight to get you the best possible outcome.
Robert M. Helfend has represented defendants accused of firearms offenses throughout California for more than 30 years, and he is prepared to take your case. Call today for your free case evaluation — 800-834-6434