Governor Signs Gonzalez Bill Regulating Police Use of Rubber Bullets and Tear Gas

For immediate release:

SACRAMENTO – (September 30, 2021) – Today, Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law Assembly Bill 48 by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) establishing California’s first statewide standards regulating the use of projectile weapons and chemical agents by law enforcement for the purposes of crowd control. 

“We’ve all seen and heard horrifying stories from those who were severely harmed by projectiles like rubber bullets and chemical agents. There is no excuse for these weapons to ever be indiscriminately fired into a crowd,” Assemblywoman Gonzalez (D-San Diego) said. “AB 48 finally creates basic standards to help minimize the excessive, unwarranted use of these dangerous weapons. This law will protect Californians’ right to safely protest without risking permanent or life-threatening injuries.” 

During nationwide protests over the past year following George Floyd’s death, images and videos captured the severe injuries caused by police officers deploying pepper spray and tear gas and indiscriminately firing rubber bullets at peaceful protestors, journalists, and bystanders. Despite being considered “non-lethal” or “less lethal” weapons, kinetic projectiles like rubber bullets, beanbags, and foam rounds have caused serious bodily harm, including broken jaws, blindness, traumatic brain injury, and ruptured testicles

AB 48 requires officers to be trained on the safe use of kinetic projectiles and chemical agents for crowd control situations where a person’s life is threatened or they are at risk of serious injury, or if it’s necessary to bring an unlawful and dangerous situation safely under control. In these instances, officers would first be required to attempt de-escalation techniques before deploying projectile weapons and give individuals an opportunity to leave the scene. AB 48 explicitly prohibits indiscriminately firing these weapons into a crowd or aiming them at the head, neck or other vital organs.

To increase accountability and oversight of the use of these weapons, AB 48 also requires police departments to publish summary reports of their use of crowd control weapons after incidents of use, which will be made available online by the Attorney General’s office. By specifically requiring a justification for why the use was necessary and why any deescalation tactics failed, AB 48 will help curb the excessive use of these weapons by law enforcement. 

For questions or to schedule an interview with Assemblywoman Gonzalez, contact Mike Blount: Mike.Blount@asm.ca.gov