Federal Judge Blocks California Law Restricting Handgun Sales
Last Monday, a federal judge in Orange County blocked parts of a California law restricting the sale of new handguns in the state, ruling the provisions to be unconstitutional. Below, we explain California’s current requirements for new handguns and the challenges to these laws.
What Are California’s Requirements for New Handguns?
In California, new handguns must meet certain requirements under the Unsafe Handgun Act. The Act, enacted in 2001, aims to prevent accidental discharges through strict safety standards. Specifically, new handguns must have 3 components:
- A chamber load indicator, which shows whether a gun is loaded
- A magazine disconnect mechanism, which stops a gun from firing if the magazine is not fully inserted
- A microstamping mechanism, which transfers imprints of a gun’s make, model, and serial number onto shell casings when the gun is fired
Is the Unsafe Handgun Act Constitutional?
U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney of Santa Ana wrote that the state’s requirements for new handguns violate the right to bear arms under the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Carney argued that due to these restrictions, new models of semiautomatic handguns have not been approved for sale since 2013, forcing Californians to buy older and potentially less safe models. Additionally, the judge stated, “No handgun available in the world has all three of these features. These requirements are having a devastating impact on Californians’ ability to acquire and use new, state-of-the-art handguns.” Meanwhile, older handguns have been grandfathered into the list of guns that pass a safety test under the Unsafe Handgun Act.
What Will Happen Next?
This ruling is the latest in a line of decisions striking down state gun laws following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year expanding gun rights. Judge Carney has issued a preliminary injunction to take effect in 14 days, giving the state time to appeal. In his response, Attorney General Rob Bonta stated that Californians should know that this injunction has not gone into effect and that California’s important gun safety requirements related to the Unsafe Handgun Act remain in effect. However, the ruling has left many laws aimed at regulating the sale and use of guns at risk of being struck down.
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