Converting Guns To Meet Law

In California, a tough new gun control law takes effect Jan. 1.

Under the new law, it will be illegal to own or sell a wide variety of semiautomatic assault weapons unless they are registered.

But some gun owners are finding a way around the new law. They are heading to gun stores where, with a little surgery, a banned assault weapon is transformed into a perfectly legal sporting weapon.

CBS News Correspondent Hattie Kauffman reports for The Early Show.

"In the year 2000 or 2001, this gun here will be considered an assault weapon by the California state law because of the protruding pistol grip that protrudes down," explains Shawn Tugwell, a gun store owner.

The reason the weapon has a grip is so that a person can hold it with one hand. Authorities believe such a feature makes the weapon dangerous.

"They believe that makes it more controllable with one hand. That's what will make it an assault weapon," Tugwell says.

The pistol grip allows someone to wrap a hand completely around it, giving better control of the firearm and also allows for accessing all the levers with one hand - and firing it with one hand, if need be.

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The law mandates that people who own or have firearms that fall under the new assault weapon definition to register them with the Department of Justice during the one-year period from Jan. 1, 2000 to Dec. 31, 2000.

The way the law reads assault weapons are considered:

Any semiautomatic center fire rifle that has the capacity to accept a detachable magazine and any of the following:

    1. A pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of a weapon.

    2. A thumbhole stock.

    3. A flash suppressor.

    4. A telescoping or folding stock.

    5. A forward pistol grip.

    6. A grenade launcher or flash launcher.

Countrywide there are more than a million rifles that fit this description in some form or another. They are used for target shooting, rifle matches and varmint hunting, like coyotes or prairie dogs, Tugwell says.

"Thankfully, the governor was kind enough to give us an option as gun owners whether to comply with the law by changing the bad features on the gun or by registering them," he notes.

The gun can transformed by eliminating the pistol grip.

He says there's lots of people out there who don't want to register their guns. They feel registration leads to confiscation. Also people believe it breaches their Secon Amendment right to keep and bear arms.

"Some people want to be able to sell their gun. They don't want the government to tell them how much they can sell it for, when they can sell it. This gives them the option of selling it whenever they want," he adds.

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