Federal judge blocks key parts of California handgun law
A federal judge on Monday blocked key provisions of a California law that sharply limits new gun sales in the state, saying parts of the law violate the Second Amendment.
The lawsuit challenging the law was filed last year by the California Rifle and Pistol Association and other gun rights advocates following a landmark 2022 U.S. Supreme Court decision that set new standards for evaluating firearms restrictions. The ruling left many laws aimed at regulating and restricting the sale and use of guns — in California and across the country — at risk of being overturned.
U.S. District Court Judge Cormac Carney, sitting in Santa Ana, wrote Monday that California’s new handgun requirements are unconstitutional and unenforceable. Because of those restrictions, Kearney wrote, new models of semi-automatic weapons have not been approved for sale since 2013, forcing Californians to buy older and potentially less safe models.
He issued a preliminary injunction that will take effect in two weeks, meaning the state must stop enforcing the law. The delay gives the state Department of Justice time to file an appeal. California Attorney General Rob Bonta’s office did not immediately return a request for comment.
In California, state law requires a new handgun to have three components: a chamber load indicator that indicates whether the weapon is loaded; a magazine shut-off mechanism that will stop the gun if the magazine is not properly inserted; and the ability to microstamp to make it easier for law enforcement to link spent shell casings to the guns they fired.
“No handgun available in the world possesses all three of these features,” the judge wrote. “These regulations have a devastating effect on the ability of Californians to purchase and use new, state-of-the-art handguns.”
The old handguns are on what’s called a “registry,” or list of weapons that have passed a safety test under a state law known as the Dangerous Weapons Act.
“Californians have a constitutional right to purchase and use modern handguns to protect themselves,” he wrote. “They shouldn’t be forced to settle for a decade-old model of handgun to make sure they stay safe inside or outside their home.”
Previous attempts to challenge the state law, filed before last year’s Supreme Court decision, failed.
Chuck Michel, head of the California Rifle and Pistol Association, said the three requirements were “impossible to meet.”
“For decades, this ‘roster’ law has denied law-abiding citizens the right to choose the handgun that fits their individual needs,” he wrote in a statement Monday. “If we can hold on to this great victory for the Second Amendment, people will be able to choose from thousands of the newest, best, and safest handguns made today.”
Only New York City has similar requirements for microstamping, according to the gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation, a trade association for firearms manufacturers, welcomed the preliminary injunction in a statement Monday.
“For too long, the Second Amendment has been fundamentally violated by elected officials who have used every opportunity to block the roads of law-abiding citizens who want to exercise their Second Amendment rights,” said Lawrence Keen, the organization’s senior vice president. “The order is the first step in a long legal battle, but it is a significant victory.