SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) – The Colorado movie massacre could mean major changes for gun owners in California. State Senator Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, who introduced a gun control bill after watching a CBS 5 investigation, is about to make that bill much tougher.

The gunman in the Colorado movie massacre fired off most of his shots with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle. It was equipped with a hundred round magazine and purchased legally at a local gun shop.

Here in California, the state’s assault weapons laws limit you to a 10-round magazine with some exceptions. You can own an AR-15. It’s a military style weapon with all the features that California law bans. You can buy it legally, as long as it has what’s called a bullet button.

A bullet button allows you to quickly detach a magazine, even though under California law detachable magazines in combination with other features are illegal. But under California regulations written to enforce the law, the bullet button make a gun’s magazine “fixed” and therefore legal, because you need a tool, the tip of a bullet, to detach it.

“What we have found is there is, in fact, a loophole,” said Senator Yee.

As a result of our report, Senator Yee introduced a bill that banned conversion kits and devices to make the bullet button easier to use, like a device called the “mag magnet”.

But these days, you don’t need a do-it-yourself kit. All the major gun manufacturers make AR’s with bullet buttons built in. So Senator Yee is amending his bill.

“We just didn’t have enough support, so we were saddled with just the magnet. Now with the Colorado thing, I think there is a lot of support now,” he said.

In the new language the definition of an illegal detachable magazine now includes a magazine that can be detached “either with the finger or by use of a tool or bullet.”

So what happens with bullet button weapons that have already been sold? “They would in fact not be in compliance with the law, and so owners would have to take away some of the features if they are going to keep it,” said Yee.

The bill also calls on Attorney General Kamala Harris to amend the state’s regulations and bring them back “into conformity” with the law.

“I think that everybody sensed that there was a wink-wink going on in the state of California and the bullet button was in fact OK,” said Senator Yee.

After three months of without comment on the bullet button issue, the Attorney General said in a statement to CBS 5: “I applaud the legislature’s interest in addressing this problem, and support efforts to pass legislation needed to restore the law’s original intent.”

It’s a call to war for California’s gun rights lobby.

“These are real constitutional problems,” said Gene Hoffman, Chairman of the Calguns Foundation. “Informing almost a quarter million people in the last 2 years who have bought these that they can now be felons is a real issue.”

If Senator Yee’s bill becomes law, gun owners in California would have to modify their AR’s. And beginning next July, gun stores in California would no longer be able to sell bullet button guns, something Hoffman said is even more problematic:

“It will take very serious reconfiguration and maybe destruction of the firearm to be able to comply,” he said.

Calguns promised to lobby hard against the bill. But Senator Yee said he’s ready for battle.

“I think, in the capital, people now realize that we have got to do something about these assault weapons, and if there is a leakage in that particular ban then we have got to plug that particular hole.”

Several lawmakers have already signed on as co-authors of SB249, including Senate President pro tem Darryl Steinberg. But support so far has not been bipartisan.

Meanwhile Calguns said, if the bill becomes law, the state should get ready for a civil rights lawsuit.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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