There is some pressing news regarding AR-15 rear takedown pin products for California gun owners. With the June 30 Bullet Button Ban deadline rapidly approaches, AR-15 owners need to be aware that some products being marketed as “compliance solutions” and “California legal” are anything but.
In an attempt to find new solutions for California gun owners, product inventors used “separation of the two receivers” as their product goal, when in fact, the law states that one must “disassemble the firearm action” before releasing the magazine. These are not one and the same. Unfortunately, many of these new products are not legal and can leave AR owners in violation of the law.
So, let’s break down the issue.
What defines a semiautomatic weapon?
If you have an AR-style that tilts open and can still fire, regardless of whether it cycles a new round, you have a semiautomatic firearm.
What’s the issue?
Several separation limiting, rear takedown pins on the market are without question illegal.
Per Gatzke Dillon & Balance law firm in Carlsbad, Calif., owners need to ensure that their AR-15 and AR-10s, plus the products purchased through gun shops to modify, are in compliance.
According to the firm, “there are several designs for rear takedown pins,” similar to the device (pictured below) for AR-15-style firearms that allow the user to separate the upper receiver from the lower receiver without requiring the rear takedown pin to be removed. Such installations function in such a way that the upper and lower receivers may only be slightly separated.
These devices limit the separation in such a way that the limited separation of the upper and lower receiver still allows the firearm to fire. There is not sufficient separation between the upper and lower receivers to prohibit the firearm’s hammer from making contact with the firing pin if the trigger is pulled. Thus, in addition to potentially being dangerous to the user or others, a law enforcement officer, prosecutor, and/or jury will determine that the action of the firearm is not sufficiently disassembled to place the firearm outside of the scope “assault weapon.”
Misinformed consumers who have these rear takedown pins installed will be subject to the terms of the AWCA (Assault Weapon Control Act) including, but not limited to, penalties of forfeiture, fine, and/or jail or prison, according to the legal experts.
The legal definitions
These parts have been marketed in such a manner that consumers are under the impression the slight separation of the receiver’s puts their AR-15 outside the classification of “semiautomatic.” This is not true.
The law clearly states that, “certain necessary mechanical parts that will allow a firearm to function in a semiautomatic nature must be present for a weapon to be deemed semiautomatic.”
The law reiterates this point in Section H, subsection 2, clearly stating, “A mechanically whole semiautomatic firearm disabled by a gun lock or other firearm safety device is a semiautomatic firearm. (All necessary parts are present, once the gun lock or firearm safety device is removed, and weapon can be loaded with a magazine and proper ammunition.)”
The fact that a firearm’s bolt carrier group (e.g., action) may not be able to fully reciprocate and load the next cartridge may not make the firearm a non-semiautomatic firearm. As illustrated in 11 C.C.R. § 5471(hh)(2), above, the firearm is still a mechanically whole semiautomatic firearm, because all of the necessary parts of a semiautomatic firearm are still present and connected. The fact that the bolt/bolt carrier group (action) is temporarily prevented from cycling fully does not remove the firearm from a semiautomatic classification.
The following illustration is provided to show that some separation of an AR-15 type upper and lower receiver may still allow the hammer to make contact with the firing pin while the magazine may still be able to be removed from the firearm without further disassembly:
Put simply, the installation of these separation limiting, rear takedown pins will place your AR-15 or AR-10 in the category of an assault weapon, which is illegal to possess without registering the weapon with the State of California. Read more from Gatzke Dillon & Balance law firm’s analysis at 2018-06-12 Firearms Compliance Open Atn Letter.