SACRAMENTO (CBS13) —  A California bill labeled as “urgent” seeks to keep retired reserve officers armed with assault rifles, despite the proposition that banned their use.

AB 1192 would allow retired reserve peace officers to carry guns with large capacity magazines, including assault rifles. The California Department of Justice defines such weapons as “any ammunition feeding device with the capacity to accept more than ten rounds.” The CA DOJ says guns matching the characteristics of these guns are considered assault rifles.

Some retired peace officers are already allowed to carry guns with large capacity magazines, but this bill expands which retired officers are included.

Supporters say they’re acting urgently before the officers are banned from using them in July.

So why do reserve officers want permission to carry assault rifles?

“These people that are exempted have proven to be protectors of our public for heaven sake! Why are they being opposed? It’s crazy,” said Assemblyman Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale).

But Republican Assemblyman Tom Lackey says he’s not pushing for just anyone to carry high-capacity magazines. The former cop’s bill targets peace officers who volunteer to protect and serve.

That includes one of the first responders to the scene of the San Bernardino terrorist attack: a reserve officer carrying only a handgun, he says.

“They’ve sacrificed their life for the public,” said Lackey.

Under Proposition 63 approved by voters last year, reserve officers will be banned from carrying assault rifles, as of July 1.
And lobbyists are acting fast.

“If there was somebody who went through that background and knows how to effectively use a firearm, and by chance were carrying that firearm in San Bernardino, we may not have had as many deaths as we did, said Shaun Rundle of the California Peace Officers Association.

He represents the hundreds of law enforcement agencies in the state, which employ about 6,000 reserves and says each one passes the same background checks and training as full-time officers.

But voters, who said yes to the ban on semiautomatics, aren’t swayed.

“I still just believe, leave it to the military you know. They are dangerous,” said Lorenzo Hernandez.

The debate reached a boiling point last August, when reserve officers sued the California Department of Justice, to allow fellow reserves to possess assault rifles.

The department tells CBS13, “Since the matter is in litigation, we are not free to comment on the case any further.”

But for Lackey, the matter isn’t about politics. It’s about public safety.

“It could save somebody’s life, including theirs,” he said.

The bill will head to the Senate if it makes it out of its next public safety committee.