Las Vegas Shooting Puts Spotlight on California Gun Laws

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When Stephen Paddock opened fire on concertgoers in Las Vegas, he didn’t just go down in infamy as a mass murderer. He also reopened the debate about bump stocks. He added a bump stock to a semiautomatic weapon, causing it to be capable of rapid-fire like a machine gun. Bump stocks are legal as far as the federal government goes, but the law is a little murkier in California. Those who buy bump stocks could end up with a weapon offense in the state.

Understanding the Law

California bans “multiple burst trigger activators.” That includes both manual and power-driven devices that users attach to semiautomatic weapons. Once attached, they can discharge two more shots rapidly. It allows people to rapid-fire shots or to shoot bursts of bullets.

There is some debate about bump stocks and the law. Some people claim that it doesn’t cover bump stocks, while others are certain that it does. One thing is clear. Most attorneys recommend that people go without bump stocks so they don’t have to put the law to the test. They could certainly end up with a violation if they purchase or use a bump stock.

No Bump Stocks in San Diego County

If you live in San Diego County, you’ll have a hard time buying a bump stock. The local gun shops don’t carry them and haven’t for years. California is known for having the strictest gun laws in the country, and the shop owners don’t want to test the limits. Take that as a sign that you’re better off leaving bump-stocks for people who live in other states.

What about Machine Guns?

While most agree that you can’t use bump stocks in California, you can legally have a machine gun, according to the National Firearms Act. This act allows people to own machine guns that were manufactured before 1986, but the gun has to be registered with the federal government. As of right now, there are around 29,000 legal machine guns in California.

The Law Might Get Clearer Soon

The bump-stock law is a bit murky in San Diego and the rest of California, but that might soon change. Senator Dianne Feinstein previously proposed a law banning bump stocks, and it was defeated. Now, after the Las Vegas tragedy, she has decided to try again, and there is some belief that a bipartisan agreement will be reached. Bump stocks might be banned on a federal level. That will take the confusion out of the law.

What to Do if You’re Charged with a Weapons Offense

It’s always frightening to face criminal charges, but weapons offenses might be among the most frightening of all. You don’t want to have a serious violation on your record, so you need help. Contact an attorney as soon as you are charged, and don’t talk to the police until your attorney arrives. Your attorney will help you navigate the confusing system. He or she will be by your side every step of the way.

Author Photo

Kerry L. Armstrong


Attorney Kerry Armstrong opened up his law firm in June 2007. Mr. Armstrong attended Thomas Jefferson School of Law, San Diego, California, and received his B.S. from Middle Tennessee State University. Kerry L. Armstrong became certified by the State Bar of California’s Board of Legal Specialization for criminal law in August 2020, making him one of the few criminal defense attorneys with a criminal law legal specialization certificate in San Diego County.  Between 2014 – 2019, Mr. Armstrong was selected for inclusion in the California Super Lawyers list, an honor only awarded to 5% of the nation’s attorneys.

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