In an interesting interpretation of California’s 2000 law banning the sale of high-capacity gun magazines, weapons distributors have been selling disassembled “repair kits” with all the pieces that can be quickly slapped together.
On Monday, the San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera sued a gun show promoter, three out-of-state online weapons-accessories companies and up to 50 unnamed John Does in Superior Court to stop them.
“The gun businesses we've sued today think they've devised a clever end-run around California law by selling fully functional high-capacity magazines that have simply been disassembled into a few easily-reassembled parts,” Herrera wrote in a press release.
Named in the lawsuit were: online companies 44Mag Distributing of Harbor, Ore.; Exile Machine of Dallas and Cope's Distributing of Greenville, Ohio; and gun-show promoter B&L Productions of Kaysville, Utah, which does business as “Crossroads of the West Gun Show.”
When California enacted the law, it gave gun owners leeway in replacing parts of a magazine already in their possession. But websites selling the kits make it clear they are meant to be assembled, and charged a nominal fee, as low as $1, to send the full magazine in pieces.
Calegalmags.com, which is not listed by name as a defendant in the suit, explains to its California enthusiasts the proper way to handle their “rebuild”—not repair—kit.
“You can assemble your rebuild kit into a magazine when you are outside of CA or at a location at which you are legally allowed to possess a high capacity magazine. For example: You can take your rebuild kit from California to Arizona, assemble it, use it, and take it apart before you return to California.”
Forgetting that last step would violate the letter of the law and Calegalmags “accepts no liability whatsoever” for any ensuing legal difficulties because “Calegalmags does not sell hi-capacity magazines period.”
The San Francisco city attorney disagrees and asked for an injunction preventing the practice. “The prohibition on importing large-capacity magazines has no exception for importing additional large-capacity magazines to cannibalize for parts,” the lawsuit argues. It also contends that the companies knowingly violate the law because they only promote their products in states that have the ammunition restrictions.
State lawmakers are currently considering a package of weapons-related legislation that would probably have a direct effect on rebuild kit sales. One bill, SB 396, would simply ban possession of the high-capacity magazines, with no exceptions for those already in possession of them.
Senate staff members made just one argument against the bill in its published analysis: the unknown cost of incarcerating—in already-overcrowded prisons—all the people who are bound to violate the law. Needless to say, they are all armed.