Five states have laws regulating the sale and possession of junk guns: Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota and South Carolina.

Chapter 134-15 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes makes it illegal for anyperson, including licensed manufacturers, importers or dealers to "possess,sell, or deliver any pistol, revolver the frame or receiver of which is adie casting of zinc alloy which has a melting temperature of less than 800degrees Fahrenheit," which was registered after July 1, 1974. This law was passed by the state legislature in 1988.

Chapter 5, paragraph 25.22(h) of the Illinois State Code makes it illegal for any dealer, importer, manufacturer or pawnbroker, to manufacture, sell or deliver to anyone, except another gun dealer licensed by the Federal government, any handgun having a barrel, slide, frame or receiver that has a die casting of zinc alloy or any other non-homogenous metal which will melt or deform at a temperature of 800 degrees Fahrenheit or less. This law was passed in October, 1973.

Although a handful of other states ban most Saturday Night Specials based on the melting point of materials used to construct them, in 1988 Maryland became the first state to ban the sale of these weapons based on their overall low quality. The state created in 1988 a Handgun Roster Board to determine which handguns are useful for legitimate sporting, self-protection, or law enforcement purposes. Guns which do not meet its criteria are banned. The Board considers the following factors when placing guns on its roster: concealability, ballistic accuracy, weight, quality of materials, quality of manufacture, safety reliability, caliber, detectability by the standard security equipment commonly used at airports or courthouses, and its utility for legitimate sporting activities, self protection, or law enforcement. Handguns placed on the roster list are illegal to posses in the state. Immediately after the state legislature passed the law providing for the creation of the board, the National Rifle Association (NRA) mounted a campaign to repeal the law in a ballot initiative. Despite spending millions of dollars, this initiative failed, marking the first time an NRA-backed initiative was defeated in a state referendum.

The state of Minnesota defines a Saturday Night Special as a pistol other than an antique firearm or pistol where the frame, barrel, cylinder, slide or breechlock is composed of any material with a melting point of less than 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit; or the pistol has any material having an ultimate tensile strength of less than 55,000 pounds per square inch, or any powdered metal having a density of less than 7.5 grams per cubic centimeter. This laws states that any federally licensed firearms dealer who sells aSaturday Night Special pistol, or any person who manufacturers or assemblesa Saturday Night Special pistol in whole or in part, shall be guilty of "agross misdemeanor." This law was passed in June, 1975.

South Carolina
Chapter 23-31-170 of the South Carolina State Code states that "no licensed retail dealer may hold, store, handle, sell, offer for sale, or otherwisepossess in his place of business a pistol or other handgun which has a die-cast metal alloy frame or receiver which melts at a temperature of less than 800 degrees Fahrenheit." This law was passed in 1973.

Pending State Legislation:
As of May, 1997, four states--California, New Jersey, Massachusetts and New York - have bills pending that would prohibit the sale and possession of junk guns.

A bill (AB488) was introduced this year in the state assembly by Assemblyman Louis Caldera (D-Los Angeles), titled the Handgun Safety Standard Act of1997. The bill aims "to eliminate from circulation poorly constructed orjunk guns that are disproportionately used in crimes and ensure in the future that handguns manufactured and sold in California include basic child and criminal proof features to prevent the needless loss of innocent lives. "The main element of the bill is modeled after Maryland's Handgun Roster Board, and would require by June 1, 1999 the California Department of Justice to create a "California Junk Gun Roster" listing handguns the Attorney General determines do not include basic safety features.The bill makes it a misdemeanor to supply, sell, give, control, manufacture or cause to be manufactured in California, any handgun listed on the roster. Handguns listed will be those which, if made outside of the United States, would be prohibited from importation. In addition, any handgun manufactured on or after June 1, 1999 that does not include all of the following safety features that are designed to prevent firearm accidents shall be considered a "junk gun" and will be required to be listed on the roster:

  1. a safety mechanism to hinder unauthorized users including trigger locks, combination handle locks, and solenoid use-limitation devices;
  2. a mechanism that effectively precludes a child under the age of six from operating a weapon, including: raising the trigger resistance beyond the hand strength force of an average six year old; altering the firing mechanism so that an average six year old's hands are too small to operate the handgun; requiring a series of multiple motions in order to fire the handgun and...
  3. a loaded chamber indicator device that provides reasonable warning to potential users of such type that users unfamiliar with the weapons would understand the nature of the warning.
This bill was heard in the Assembly Appropriations Committee on May 21, 1997, and is scheduled to reach a floor vote by the end of May.

Massachusetts is currently considering adopting a consumer protection regulation requiring that handguns offered for sale in the state meet minimum quality standards. These regulations effectively ban the sales of Saturday Night Specials and require all handguns sold in the state to carry child-proofing features and tamper-resistant serial numbers. Massachusetts is the first state in the nation to consider adopting handgun sales regulations under its consumer protection powers. In citing the need for the law, the attorney general's office wrote that "Despite an abundant supply, the regulation of handguns as a consumer product is non-existent...Current consumer protection laws regulate the safety of caps for toy guns and everything from bicycles and baby rattles, but not handguns." The proposed regulations state that: it shall be an unfair or deceptive practice for a seller to transfer or offer to transfer to any customer located within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts any handgun:

  1. that has a frame, barrel, cylinder, slide or breechlock: composed of any metal having a melting point of less than 900 degrees Fahrenheit; composed of any material having an ultimate tensile strength of less than 55,000 pounds per square inch; or composed of any powdered metal having a density of less than 7.5 grams per cubic centimeter
  2. is either prone to accidental detonation, to repeated detonation based on a single pull of the trigger, or to the explosion of the handgun during detonation;
  3. has a barrel shorter than three inches, unless the seller discloses to each prospective purchaser in writing prior to purchase the limits of the accuracy of such a weapon and its concomitant relative ineffectiveness for sporting purpose or self defense.
Because this is a consumer protection regulation, no legislative or gubernatorial approval is required. Although these regulations have been approved and finalized by the Attorney General's office, it is uncertain when they will become effective. The state Attorney General's office is still engaged in negotiations with Smith & Wesson, a gun manufacturer based in the state, to discuss and determine possible consequences of this law on the manufacturer.

New York
In March, 1997, a bill was introduced in the state assembly that would ban "poorly made, easily concealable, and generally unsafe weapons commonly known as 'Saturday Night Specials' or 'junk guns'." This bill specifically declares several makes and models of handguns to be "dangerous firearms", including some guns manufactured by Bryco, Colt, Lorcin, Phoenix, Sundance and Taurus. In addition, this law would direct the superintendent of the state police, in consultation with the secretary of the treasury and the attorney general to conduct ongoing tests and evaluations of domestically manufactured pistols and revolvers to determine whether these weapons meet the standards required for imported handguns under the Handgun Control Act of 1968.

This bill has been reported out of the Codes Committee and has had three readings on the Assembly floor. No vote has been scheduled.

New Jersey
Assembly bill No. 1869, introduced on May 2, 1996, would make it illegal tomanufacture, sell or possess a handgun that has a die-cast metal alloy frameor receiver which melts at 800 degrees Fahrenheit or less.

This bill is still in the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee. No action has been scheduled by the committee chairperson.

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