Federal Judge Blocks Key Provisions of California’s Firearms Law

A federal judge on Monday blocked key provisions of a California law that sharply restricts the sale of a new handgun in the state, saying parts of the law violate the Second Amendment.

The lawsuit challenging the law was filed last year by the California Rifles and Pistols Association and other gun rights advocates following a landmark 2022 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that set new standards for evaluating firearms restrictions. The ruling left many laws designed to regulate and restrict the sale and use of guns – in California and across the country – in jeopardy.

U.S. District Court Judge Cormac Carney, sitting in Santa Ana, wrote on Monday that California’s demands for new handguns are unconstitutional and cannot be met. Because of these restrictions, Carney writes, no new models of semi-automatic pistols have been allowed to be sold since 2013, forcing Californians to buy older and potentially less safe models.

He has issued a preliminary injunction that will take effect in two weeks, meaning the state will have to 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 respond to a request for comment.

In California, state law requires new pistols to have three components: a chamber-load indicator to show if the pistol is loaded; a magazine release mechanism that will stop the pistol from firing if the magazine is not inserted correctly; and the ability to be microstamped to make it easier for law enforcement to associate spent cartridge cases with the weapon they were fired from.

“No pistol in the world has all three of these characteristics,” the judge wrote. “These regulations are having a devastating effect on the ability of Californians to acquire and use new, modern handguns.”

Old handguns were included on what is known as the “list” or list of weapons that pass the safety test under a state law known as the Unsafe Handgun Act.

“California people have the constitutional right to acquire and use the most advanced handguns for self-defense,” he wrote. “They shouldn’t be forced to settle for decade-old model guns to keep them safe inside or outside the house.”

Previous attempts to challenge the state law, filed before last year’s Supreme Court ruling, have been unsuccessful.

Chuck Michel, head of the California Rifles and Pistols Association, said the three requirements were “impossible to meet.”

“For decades, this ‘listed’ law has denied law-abiding citizens the right to choose a handgun that suits their individual needs,” he wrote in a statement on Monday. “If we can hold on to this great victory in the Second Amendment, people will be able to choose from thousands of the newest, best, and safest handguns made today.”

According to gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety, only New York City has similar microstamping requirements.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade association for firearms manufacturers, welcomed the preliminary injunction in a statement Monday.

“For far too long, the Second Amendment has been severely violated by elected officials who have used every opportunity to block roads to law-abiding citizens seeking to exercise their Second Amendment rights,” said Lawrence Keane, senior vice president of the organization. “The order is the first step in a protracted legal battle, but it is a significant victory.”

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