California Proposition 15, Handgun Registration Initiative (1982)
Proposition 15 would have required owners of handguns to register them with the Department of Justice on or before November 2, 1983. It would have restricted the number of handguns in California by:
- Allowing the Department of Justice to issue registration cards only for handguns registered by November 2, 1983 (with specified exceptions).
- Specifying that an individual may register only one handgun purchased between January 1, 1982, and April 30, 1983.
- Restricting the importation of handguns into the state, and,
- Prohibiting the purchase of handguns by mail.
The National Rifle Association spent $5 million on a campaign opposing Proposition 15.
Proposition 15's official ballot summary said:
- "Adds and amends statutes concerning ownership, registration, and sale of guns. Requires that all concealable firearms (handguns) be registered by November 2, 1983. Makes registration information confidential. Specifies procedures concerning sale and transfer of handguns by dealers and private parties. Restricts Legislature from banning ownership of shotguns, long rifles, or registered handguns and from requiring registration of shotguns or long rifles. Limits number of handguns to number in circulation in California on April 30, 1983. Specifies violation penalties, including imprisonment for certain violations. Provides specified civil damage liability upon unlawful transfer of concealable firearms. Contains other provisions."
The fiscal estimate provided by the California Legislative Analyst's Office said:
- "This initiative would have an indeterminable impact on state and local governments.
- Administrative costs. The measure would result in major state and local administrative costs, which would be covered in whole or in part by fees charged to affected handgun owners. For example:
- The Department of Justice would incur additional costs for activities such as the identification of handgun registration applicants who are prohibited by law from owning handguns, preparation of forms, development of regulations, publicity about the new handgun laws, records maintenance, license revocation, and weapons destruction.
- Local law enforcement agencies would incur costs in processing handgun transfer applications and replacement certificates.
- The Department of Motor Vehicles could incur minor one-time costs to revise its driver's license and identification card applications to include a statement regarding the law which prohibits the importation of unregistered handguns into California.
- The measure clearly contemplates that fees could be charged handgun owners to cover a large portion of these additional costs, thus reducing any net fiscal impact on the state or local governments. Whether all such costs could be covered from fees would depend on the way in which the fee provisions of the measure are interpreted.
- Program costs. To the extent that this measure limits the availability of handguns and, over a period of time, reduces the number of such guns in California, it could result in a reduction in the number of crimes committed with handguns. It also could result in a reduction in the number of accidental handgun injuries and deaths. However, it is unknown to what extent both criminals and law-abiding citizens would utilize other weapons instead of handguns as a result of this measure. These factors would have an unknown impact on the costs to state and local governments for maintaining the criminal justice system, providing medical and social services, and compensating victims of violent crimes.
- Because the measure creates new crimes and modifies existing criminal provisions, it could result in undetermined costs for state and local criminal justice activities. Some of these costs probably would be financed by redirecting resources from other ongoing criminal justice programs and would not result in a net increase in government costs. To the extent that additional persons would be incarcerated or receive longer jail or prison sentences as a result of this measure, state prison and/or county jail costs would increase.
- Impact on revenues. By limiting the number of handguns in the state, this measure could reduce the volume of handgun and ammunition sales, which in turn could affect the sales and income tax revenues that sellers of these products pay to the state. However, this does not necessarily imply corresponding changes in total state tax revenues, because consumers may shift their spending from handguns and ammunition to other taxable and nontaxable commodities.
- Local governments could experience an unknown, but probably minor, revenue loss from the prohibition against the sale by local law enforcement agencies of surrendered or recovered stolen weapons at public auctions.
- PDF of the mailed November 2, 1982 voter guide for Proposition 15
- Hastings California I&R database
- California Law Library, November 2, 1982 ballot propositions