Laws on Bullet Buttons in California

By Larry LaVigne
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The California bullet button law affects guns commonly known as assault weapons, specifically modified semiautomatic firearms that possess a detachable magazine as defined by California's Department of Justice Regulations, Title 11, Division 5, Chapter 39. California has banned the sale of certain types of assault weapons since 1989's Roberti-Roos Assault Weapons Control Act, and the state has added stricter measures in several instances. As of 2011, the sale of assault weapons is prohibited in California. However, installing bullet buttons help to circumnavigate the ban on what would otherwise be an illegal weapon.

Bullet Button: Defined

A bullet button is a mechanism that allows the firearm operator to release a magazine only if a tool (usually a bullet tip or an Allen wrench) is used. Thus, the magazine isn't technically "detachable." Rather, it can be described as "attachable-fixed." Installing a bullet button only takes a minute, and can mean the difference between a legal and an illegal firearm.

Laws Relating to Bullet Buttons

Section 12276.1 of California's penal code is addresses the legality of bullet buttons on assault weapons because it prohibits the combination of certain features such as detachable magazines and a pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon, thumbhole, folding or telescoping stock, grenade launcher or flare launcher, or a flash suppressor on semiautomatic rifles such as the AK-series or AR-15. The law also prohibits magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds. Subsequent sections ban similar features on semiautomatic pistols and shotguns.

More Laws

California doesn't have any laws or regulations that outline the terms or even make mention of bullet button use. Neither has a California court given an opinion about the legality of the mechanism. Although the California Department of Justice has issued letters against the use of bullet buttons, they do not hold the force of law. In other words, assault weapon legislation in California grants enough leeway for gunowners to modify their otherwise illegal weapons to make them registrable.

Registering a Gun with Bullet Button

Possession of an unregistered assault weapon is grounds for a felony or misdemeanor under Penal Code Section 12280(b) or an infraction under limited time and conditions pursuant to Penal Code Section 12280(c). However, no mandatory firearm registration exists in California except for assault weapon owners and personal handgun importers. However, submitting a Firearm Ownership Record to the Department of Justice for any firearm is recommended, so a lost or stolen firearm can be returned. It's best to check with the DOJ to ensure that your bullet buttons are properly installed. Always have bullet buttons installed by certified weapons dealers.

About the Author

Based in Aspen, Colorado, Larry LaVigne has been an editor at "Aspen Magazine" since 2008. He has written and edited pieces on virtually every topic—from fashion and lifestyle to politics and law. LaVigne obtained a Juris Doctor from the University of Connecticut in 2007.