Why Are Rifle Sales Plummeting In California?

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Photo via WIkimedia Commons

California firearms dealers submitted 54% fewer government applications for long guns this year compared to last year, suggesting that rifle sales are in freefall in the state in the aftermath of sweeping new gun control laws.


Gun dealers submitted 21,721 applications to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System in July 2017 compared to a whopping 48,000 submissions processed during the same month last year. On the surface, this seems like a victory for Governor Jerry Brown's SB 880 gun control legislation which, drafted in response to the December 2015, San Bernardino mass shooting.

SB 880 saw the introduction of a ban on new rifles with California’s infamous bullet buttons and so-called 'assault weapon' features like pistol grips and removable magazines. Under the new restrictions, the state now forces unregistered AR-15s to use a fixed magazine system that requires owners to dismantle their rifle to remove the magazine. But AR-15s just aren’t designed to work that way.

While this initially seems like a victory for Brown, it’s worth noting that the initial unveiling of the new restrictions kicked off a major spike in rifle sales, a massive spike that put the state at the top of rifle background checks for several months. California recently extended the registration period, and gun owners that have rifles with features like bullet buttons now have until July 2018 to register their weapons.

In the meantime, companies like Inc and Mean Arms have introduced workaround systems to mitigate the limits of the California’s new restrictions. These include stripper clip systems like the MA Loader, which means that in theory, you can own a ‘featureless’ California AR-15 and still have some semblance of functionality.

The news of slowing rifle sales in California comes amid a small but important victory for gun advocates that saw the wording of gun control bill SB 497 changed at the last second. The legislation, originally intended to deal with law enforcement officers storing firearms in unattended vehicles, as significantly amended at the committee stage to remove language that would have extended California's one handgun purchase per month rule to all firearms. What that means for future rifle sales remains to be seen.

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Marine Maj. Jose J. Anzaldua Jr. spent more than three years during the height of the Vietnam War. Now, more than 45 years after his release, Sig Sauer is paying tribute to his service with a special gift.

Sig Sauer on Friday unveiled a unique 1911 pistol engraved with Anzaldua's name, the details of his imprisonment in Vietnam, and the phrase "You Are Not Forgotten" accompanied by the POW-MIA flag on the grip to commemorate POW-MIA Recognition Day.

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Marine Maj. Jose Anzaldua's commemorative 1911 pistol

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Born in Texas in 1950, Anzaldua enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1968 and deployed to Vietnam as an intelligence scout assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.

On Jan. 23, 1970, he was captured during a foot patrol and spent 1,160 days in captivity in various locations across North Vietnam — including he infamous Hỏa Lò Prison known among American POWs as the "Hanoi Hilton" — before he was freed during Operation Homecoming on March 27, 1973.

Anzaldua may have been a prisoner, but he never stopped fighting. After his release, he received two Bronze Stars with combat "V" valor devices and a Prisoner of War Medal for displaying "extraordinary leadership and devotion to his companions" during his time in captivity. From one of his Bronze Star citations:

Using his knowledge of the Vietnamese language, he was diligent, resourceful, and invaluable as a collector of intelligence information for the senior officer interned in the prison camp.

In addition, while performing as interpreter for other United States prisoners making known their needs to their captors, [Anzaldua] regularly, at the grave risk of sever retaliation to himself, delivered and received messages for the senior officer.

On one occasion, when detected, he refused to implicate any of his fellow prisoners, even though severe punitive action was expected.

Anzaldua also received a Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his heroism in December 1969, when he entered the flaming wreckage of a U.S. helicopter that crashed nearr his battalion command post in the country's Quang Nam Province and rescued the crew chief and a Vietnamese civilian "although painfully burned himself," according to his citation.

After a brief stay at Camp Pendleton following his 1973 release, Anzaldua attended Officer Candidate School at MCB Quantico, Virginia, earning his commission in 1974. He retired from the Corps in 1992 after 24 years of service.

Sig Sauer presented the commemorative 1911 pistol to Anzaldua in a private ceremony at the gunmaker's headquarters in Newington, New Hampshire. The pistol's unique features include:

  • 1911 Pistol: the 1911 pistol was carried by U.S. forces throughout the Vietnam War, and by Major Anzaldua throughout his service. The commemorative 1911 POW pistol features a high-polish DLC finish on both the frame and slide, and is chambered in.45 AUTO with an SAO trigger. All pistol engravings are done in 24k gold;
  • Right Slide Engraving: the Prisoner of War ribbon inset, with USMC Eagle Globe and Anchor and "Major Jose Anzaldua" engravings;
  • Top Slide Engraving: engraved oak leaf insignia representing the Major's rank at the time of retirement and a pair of dog tags inscribed with the date, latitude and longitude of the location where Major Anzaldua was taken as a prisoner, and the phrase "You Are Not Forgotten" taken from the POW-MIA flag;
  • Left Side Engraving: the Vietnam War service ribbon inset, with USMC Eagle Globe and Anchor engraving;
  • Pistol Grips: anodized aluminum grips with POW-MIA flag.

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