Quietly and without comment, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed Senate Bill 199 into law Sept. 30 in Sacramento. The new law, which had virtually no support from the airsoft community or larger gun rights lobby in general, will have an effect on how California airsoft and milsim participants have to mark their guns in future days.
"Imitation guns have caused far too many tragedies. The deaths of children as a result of toy guns should be a wakeup call for airsoft manufacturers," state Sen. Kevin de Leon, the bill's author, said in a released statement following the signing. "Now with the Governor's signature of SB 199, replica guns must be distinguished from real firearms so our communities and police officers are not placed in unnecessarily dangerous situations."
SB199 at first was an anti-airsoft, anti-airgun bill (oddly with almost no mention of paintball guns) drifted through the legislature for almost eighteen months before gaining enough traction to pass. It originally mandated that airsoft devices sold or made in California be either transparent (clear) or brightly colored to resemble toys or super-soaker style water guns.
(Airsoft guns are already marked in accordance with federal law. California's new SB199 bill will take those markings to a whole new level in the Golden State now that it is law)
After an 18-month struggle through the state legislature that saw most of the anti-airgun language stripped away, and the requirements on manufacturers largely lifted, SB199 passed the state Assembly by 46-34 on Aug. 26 and the state Senate by a 23-12 margin just after.
Now Brown has signed the act into law on the last day allowed to either sign or veto legislation presented to him for this year, despite opposition from many in the airsoft community as well as traditional gun rights groups like the NRA and California State Rifle and Pistol Association.
The bill has changed from its original format to just require a 2 centimeter colored adhesive stripe on 2 out of 3 of the following locations: stock, mag well, hand guard, or pistol grip. In news, mainstream news articles on the bill's signing Tuesday consistently refers to airsoft as "toy guns," further trivializing both the sport and the industry, adding literal insult to legislative injury.
This is something that the airsoft community has been opposed to in both act and deed for years.
"SB-199, as it is worded today, is asking the public to treat replica guns as if they are toys," reads on a post on a popular No on SB199 social media page. "The hundreds of millions of Airsoft replicas and Air guns, should be treated as replica firearms, not toys. Because 0.000000001% of the users decides to violate existing law, doesn't mean we need to take away all existing law that had been regulating the sport for over 150 years successfully."
The measure was introduced by state Sen. Kevin de Leon, who saw other pieces of legislation against real steel guns go down the pipes. De Leon, best known for his horrible news conference on what he termed "Ghost Guns" earlier this year, has seen measure after measure fail, two of them by Gov. Brown's hand alone. The Ghost Gun bill (SB808) was one of the few vetoed by Brown Tuesday.
(This guy wrote SB199. Having gone after real steel several times and failed, Sen. De Leon also likes to pick on airsoft and airguns)
As related in a statement from the California Association of Federal Firearms Licensees (CAL-FFL):
"All of Senator de Len's major gun control bills in the 2013-2014 legislative session failed to become law. SB 53, a proposal to severely restrict ammunition purchases and create a new state ammunition bureaucracy within the DOJ, was rejected by the Assembly on August 30.
In 2013, de Leon co-authored SB 47 with now-suspended Senator Leland Yee, who is charged with violating federal arms trafficking and corruption laws. The bill would have banned semi-automatic firearms with magazine locking devices sometimes referred to as 'Bullet Buttons.' SB 755, a bill he co-authored with Senator Lois Wolk to expand the categories of 'prohibited persons' ineligible to possess firearms, was vetoed by Brown last October."
However, de Leon has been more successful going against airsoft and airguns. In 2011, he introduced in collaboration with Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck to require distinguishing colors on airsoft and BB guns. Though the measure failed passage in the Assembly Public Safety Committee, a similar measure, SB 1315 was later signed by Brown to allow cities within the LA County to enact local ordinances more restrictive than state law regulating the manufacture, sale, possession, or use of any BB device, toy gun, or replica.
Such is "progress" in California. Air guns are exempt from SB199. Paintball guns are exempt from SB199. Its just airsofters that are in the new reality, and they are already federally mandated to be marked.
Break out the paint and remember to become involved in your legislative process before the legislative process becomes involved in you.