Commonly, "Assault Weapon" and "Assault Rifle" are used interchangeably however the two terms are very different.
An assault rifle are select fire rifles normally designed and used by the military. These rifles allow the user to select between semi-automatic, fully-automatic, or three-round bursts.
In the world of firearms, there is no technical category named "assault weapons". The term assault weapon is a political term that is defined by what politicians deem to be unsafe for private citizens to possess.
California has seen several revisions to the assault weapons ban.
Currently, an assault weapon is categorized into 3 categories.
listed in the Roberti-Roos Assault Weapons Control Act of 1989 (Category 1)
listed in Kasler v. Lockyer Assault Weapon List (Category 2)
has any of the generic characteristics listed in AB 23 (Category 3)
What is an Assault Weapon?
Category 1 - Roberti-Roos Assault Weapons Control Act of 1989
This was California’s first assault weapons act. Under this act, any firearm on a list specified in Penal Code section 12276 is considered an assault weapon.
Category 2 - Firearms specified on the list of AK and AR-15 series weapons from Kasler v. Lockyer
The firearms listed in this PDF are all considered assault weapons even though they may not have the generic characteristics of an assault weapon. They are considered assault weapons by name.
Category 3 - SB 23 assault weapons
SB 23, effective January 1, 2000, defines the generic attributes of an assault weapon.
A firearm that has any of the following generic attributes would be considered an assault weapon.
A semiautomatic, centerfire rifle that has the capacity to accept a detachable magazine and any one of the following:
A pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon.
A thumbhole stock.
A folding or telescoping stock.
A grenade launcher or flare launcher.
A flash suppressor.
A forward pistol grip.
A semiautomatic, centerfire rifle that has a fixed magazine with the capacity to accept more than 10 rounds.
A semiautomatic, centerfire rifle that has an overall length of less than 30 inches.
A semiautomatic pistol that has the capacity to accept a detachable magazine and any one of the following:
A threaded barrel, capable of accepting a flash suppressor, forward handgrip, or silencer.
(B) A second handgrip.
A shroud that is attached to, or partially or completely encircles, the barrel that allows the bearer to fire the weapon without burning his or her hand, except a slide that encloses the barrel.
The capacity to accept a detachable magazine at some location outside of the pistol grip.
A semiautomatic pistol with a fixed magazine that has the capacity to accept more than 10 rounds.
A semiautomatic shotgun that has both of the following:
A folding or telescoping stock.
A pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon, thumbhole stock, or vertical handgrip.
A semiautomatic shotgun that has the ability to accept a detachable magazine.
Any shotgun with a revolving cylinder.
"Assault weapon" does not include any antique firearm.
The following definitions shall apply under this section:
"Magazine" shall mean any ammunition feeding device.
"Capacity to accept more than 10 rounds" shall mean capable of accommodating more than 10 rounds, but shall not be construed to include a feeding device that has been permanently altered so that it cannot accommodate more than 10 rounds.
"Antique firearm" means any firearm manufactured prior to January 1, 1899.
The penalty for possession of an assault weapon can be a felony or misdemeanor.
If charged with a misdemeanor violation of possession of an assault weapon, the penalties include:
Maximum punishment is one year in the county jail
A fine up to $1,000, or both the fine and imprisonment
If charged with a felony violation, the penalties include:
Punishment is 16 months, two years, or three years in California state prison
A fine up to $10,000, or both a fine and imprisonment.
The penalty for manufacture, distribution, transportation, importation, sale, and transfer of assault weapons is a felony.
Similar to most firearms regulations, there are exemptions to the assault weapons ban.
Category 1 AW: must have been owned by 12/31/1991 and registered by 03/31/1992
Category 2 AW: must have been owned by 08/16/2000 and registered by 01/23/2001
Category 3 AW: must have been owned by 12/31/1999 and registered by 12/31/2000
.50 BMG: must have been owned by 12/31/2004 and registered by April 30, 2006
Penal Code sections 30625 and 30630 provide an exception for specified peace officers with written authorization from the head of their employing agency.
CA DOJ, under the right circumstances, can also issue an Assault Weapon / .50 BMG Rifle Permit which will allow the permit holder to legally possess, manufacture and sell assault weapons and .50 BMG rifles.