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Traveling through California with an "Assault Rifle"

Discussion in 'Legal' started by hhp, Dec 25, 2012.

  1. hhp

    hhp Member

    About my situation:

    I get my DD-214 from the Army on Friday of this week, on saturday I start my road trip to Oregon 214 by way of NM, AZ, and CA. I will be spending three nights in CA, visiting a few places I would like to see. I will be traveling with several firearms, as I will be driving a 22' moving truck filled with my stuff. I am concerned about my S&W M&P15.

    I have been looking and I can't seem to find anything that will allow me to travel through CA with my S&W M&P15.

    However, Everything I do find pertains to residents of CA, which I am not, I will simply be traveling through.

    Any suggestions on my options? Know of a loophole that would make traveling with this "DANGEROUS WEAPON" legal?

    I would rather not violate the law, if at all possible.
  2. Quiet

    Quiet Well-Known Member

    In order to legally possess the S&W M&P-15 in CA, it will need to be configured to be CA legal.
    Easiest way is to replace the magazine release with a "bullet button" maglock + a 10 round magazine.
    Alternative is to disassemble the S&W M&P-15. Keep the upper intact, but strip the lower into parts.

    It is also illegal for you to import/possess any large capacity (11+ round) magazines in CA.
    You can comply with this by disassembling any 11+ round magazine you have into parts before you enter CA and never assemble them while in CA.
  3. hhp

    hhp Member


    How far will I have to strip the lower? Can I just take the trigger group out? or do I have to take the buffer assembly off, and all the detents, etc...?
  4. col.lemat

    col.lemat Well-Known Member

    The more it looks like parts & the less like a weapon the better off you are. California is not any kind of weapon friendly.
  5. bergmen

    bergmen Member.

    According to the California Rifle and Pistol Association:

    "...you may legally transport a firearm by motor vehicle during interstate travel despite state or local laws to the contrary. You may transport the firearm for any lawful purpose from a place where you may legally possess and carry it to any other place where you may legally possess and carry it. In addition, the firearm must be unloaded and neither firearm nor any ammunition can be readily or directly accessible from within the passenger compartment. If the vehicle does not have a compartment separate from the passenger compartment, the firearm or ammunition must be in a separate locked container other than the glove compartment or console."

    It is my understanding that Federal laws pertaining to possession and transport are in force if one is a non-resident of the state being travelled through.

    A good resource for California gun laws (and a very good place to search for definitive answers such as yours) is the CalGuns site:


    I have paraphrased my understanding of the transport laws. Take a little time and research the fine points and don't take my word for it.

  6. Zoogster

    Zoogster Well-Known Member

    bergmen said
    That may not apply bergmen.

    The reason is federal law exempts interstate travel between states in the middle as long as one of those states is not a 'destination'.

    'Destination' has been said not to mean the final destination of the total trip, but any specific stops beyond those directly in route needed for sleep or other basic supplies and needs during travel.

    So if you decide to stop and visit several friends, go well off the route needed to go from say AZ to Oregon, all the way to the coast to visit some friends, and partake in activities or visit destinations, then those would be considered 'destinations'.
    By having a destination in California FOPA no longer protects you from California's laws, which is the protection the California Rifle and Pistol Association is citing.

    Unless you drive right through California in that moving truck you are not protected from the Assault Weapon laws as even an affirmative defense.

    Quiet cited how one needs to travel around in California.
    Every magazine over 10 rounds needs to be disassembled. The gun needs to be disassembled as well.
    The gun is not on the bad list by name, only features, so by being disassembled it no longer has prohibited features and is legal.

    There is various features that are prohibited in combination with a detachable magazine, only one of which is the pistol grip. A bullet button makes it no longer a detachable magazine under the law, and eliminates the need to understand those things as well.

    So you can bullet button it and have a 10 round magazine, or you can disassemble the gun.
    Either way you will need to disassemble all your magazines over 10 rounds to legally travel with them around California in your moving truck.
    Last edited: Dec 25, 2012
  7. bergmen

    bergmen Member.

    Zoogster: Excellent, thanks for clarifying! I would hope that my paraphrasing would have been more thoroughly defined by someone of more vast knowledge, thanks.

    To the OP: Follow Zoogster's views, not mine.

  8. Zoogster

    Zoogster Well-Known Member

    I made my own mistake, I said someone else who often posts instead of Quiet who I meant.

    Keeping up with all the Cali laws just as they relate to even firearms is tough for myself.
    I was over a month late to learning they banned unloaded open carry of long guns at the end of September this year.
    Not being someone into Open Carrying for demonstration purposes I didn't follow that development (happened to handguns last year.)
    Can't even carry an unloaded long gun slung on your shoulder hiking in the woods in many areas anymore (not meeting hunting exemption with valid hunting license etc)
    I almost slung a long gun and went hiking on a trip where we were just backpacking and camping through some national forest recently.
    Thinking I knew the law and that it might be nice to casually take a gun along to at least have at camp in remote areas far from the nearest road where even cell phone reception is minimal.

    You take a break for a few months and you might not know the law anymore in CA, they are always coming up with something new.
    Last edited: Dec 25, 2012
  9. hhp

    hhp Member

    zoogster, if i put a bullet button on it, do i have to buy and attach a 10rd magazine as well? or can I just put the bullet button on it without purchasing a mostly useless mag?

    That is nuts how not having a detachable mag 10rds or less changes it from an assault rifle to ... something else?

    I guess this is the ideal solution for me as I don't want to completely disassemble my brand new m&p.

    Thanks everyone who responded :)
  10. bainter1212

    bainter1212 Well-Known Member

    CA native here: I would recommend installing the bullet button (only takes a few min) and disassembling your mags. Don't know if the M&P is an "off list" legal model, but no LEO will know that offhand either. Keep your ammo in a seperate section of your vehicle and you should be good. If you get stopped show the LEO your DD 214 and military ID, let them know you are freshly discharged and on your way home. No requirement in CA to notify a cop during a stop that you have weapons, but probably a good idea to tell if he asks. If you are entering CA from AZ, just FYI the CHP is thick on the ground for quite awhile after you get into CA. Once you get up into the central part of the state they won't have such a heavy presence. Good luck.
  11. hhp

    hhp Member

    bainter1212: I'm coming in from NV, I guess I missed that one in my states listed on my trip. Vegas for New Years ... WHAT WHAT!

    I doubt I'll even get pulled over on my trip, but I dont want to a) break the law, and b) go to jail for violating stupid laws if something bad happens.

    I just hope I'm able to find a bullet button here in Texas, I may have to drive quite a way from FT Hood in order to find one.

    I'm still looking for clarification if I need 10rd mag, I'd rather not purchase a mag I'll never use again...
  12. Quiet

    Quiet Well-Known Member

    A "bullet button" maglocked rifle with a 11+ round magazine is an assault weapon. [PC 30515(a)(2)]

    It's easier to explain/show to a CA LEO that it is a CA legal fixed magazine semi-auto centerfire rifle with an unloaded 10 round or less magazine inserted in the rifle, than it is with no 10 round or less magazine available.

    So, be on the safe side and get a 10 round or less magazine and keep it locked in the rifle, while you are in CA.

    The 10 round magazine is good size for use when shooting from a bench/rest.

    CA Penal Code 30515
    (a) Notwithstanding Section 30510, "assault weapon" also means any of the following:
    (1) A semiautomatic, centerfire rifle that has the capacity to accept a detachable magazine and any one of the following:
    (A) A pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon.
    (B) A thumbhole stock.
    (C) A folding or telescoping stock.
    (D) A grenade launcher or flare launcher.
    (E) A flash suppressor.
    (F) A forward pistol grip.
    (2) A semiautomatic, centerfire rifle that has a fixed magazine with the capacity to accept more than 10 rounds.
    (3) A semiautomatic, centerfire rifle that has an overall length of less than 30 inches.
    (4) A semiautomatic pistol that has the capacity to accept a detachable magazine and any one of the following:
    (A) A threaded barrel, capable of accepting a flash suppressor, forward handgrip, or silencer.
    (B) A second handgrip.
    (C) A shroud that is attached to, or partially or completely encircles, the barrel that allows the bearer to fire the weapon without burning the bearer's hand, except a slide that encloses the barrel.
    (D) The capacity to accept a detachable magazine at some location outside of the pistol grip.
    (5) A semiautomatic pistol with a fixed magazine that has the capacity to accept more than 10 rounds.
    (6) A semiautomatic shotgun that has both of the following:
    (A) A folding or telescoping stock.
    (B) A pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon, thumbhole stock, or vertical handgrip.
    (7) A semiautomatic shotgun that has the ability to accept a detachable magazine.
    (8) Any shotgun with a revolving cylinder.
  13. Librarian

    Librarian Well-Known Member

  14. bergmen

    bergmen Member.

    Follow this flowchart:


    This should tell you everything you need to know, as well as the two authoritative posts above.

  15. Zoogster

    Zoogster Well-Known Member

    You don't need a 10 round magazine with the bullet button.

    However your compliance is clearer to officer non-lawyer if you have one.

    The law defines it as

    Without a magazine inserted and a bullet button it has the capacity to accept a magazine, but not the ability to be removed without a tool.
    So it does not have the capacity to accept a magazine that can be removed without a tool.
    That means it is in compliance.
    However having parts of disassembled magazines over 10 rounds present and no 10 round magazine and an open magwell is going to confuse a young deputy trying to figure out if your in compliance.

    There is also no requirement to keep the ammunition seperate from the gun, assuming nothing changed in the last couple months regarding that. Only that you have no rounds in the firearm itself.
  16. Jeff H

    Jeff H Well-Known Member

    Why dont you just UPS it to yourself? That way you don't need to carry it with you on your trip through that state.
  17. hhp

    hhp Member

    No one in TX seems to know what a bullet button is (go figure). I think my plan is to pick one up in Las Vegas before I go into CA.

    If I'm unable to pick one up, how little can I disassemble of the lower in order to make it CA Legal? Can I just remove the mag release, so that it wont accept a magazine?

    The steps a law abiding citizen will take to follow the law...
  18. NavyLCDR

    NavyLCDR member

    That would violated UPS company policy. He could mail it to himself via US Post Office, however, and not violate any policy/regulation/law.
  19. Librarian

    Librarian Well-Known Member

    As I suggested earlier, try on line.

    No, just removing the mag release would not work. Having a 'broken assault weapon' is still having an 'assault weapon'.

    It's likely the case that having the rifle sufficiently disassembled would eventually be ruled in court NOT to be an 'aw' - without an upper, for example, that lower is not 'center fire'; you could put a rimfire upper on it, or even a crossbow.

    The problem with that argument is there is a significant likelihood you would indeed have to take it to court, at a cost in the thousands, or tens of thousands, of dollars - and no guarantee you would win the point.

    The balance is 'about $30 plus annoyance' vs 'small likelihood of detection plus $thousands to defend plus risk of 4-8 years in California prison'.

    ETA, since someone is going to ask, the penalty is specified in Penal Code 30600.
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2012
  20. hhp

    hhp Member

    I spoke with a CHP officer at 1-800-TELL-CHP.

    He told me to put my firearm in a locked container (trunk), separate the upper and lower and keep the ammo in a separate container. Thats all I have to do.

    I took down his name and badge number and will be happy to email or PM it to anyone who is in a similar situation.

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