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Judge OK’s Calif. Unsafe Handgun Act

SACRAMENTO (CN) - California's Unsafe Handguns Act, which bans new semiautomatic handguns that do not stamp identifying information on the cartridge when a bullet is fired, is constitutional, a federal judge ruled.

The Unsafe Handguns Act prohibits the manufacture or sale of any gun that does not meet certain safety requirements. The California Department of Justice keeps a roster of tested revolvers or semiautomatic pistols that have been deemed not to be unsafe.

The purpose of the law is to reduce crime by reducing the sale of cheap handguns, ensuring that handguns fire when they are supposed to and do not fire when dropped.

A 2007 amendment prohibited the manufacture or sale of handguns without microstamping technology, which identifies the gun's make, model and serial number through a code on a bullet's casing. The microstamping requirement took effect in 2013.

The Unsafe Handguns Act does not violate the constitutional right to bear arms because gun owners do not have a right to buy specific types of firearms, U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller ruled on Feb. 26.

Lead plaintiff Ivan Peña, the Calguns Foundation, the Second Amendment Foundation, others argued in their lawsuit against the California Department of Justice Bureau of Firearms that the law violates the Second Amendment because it bars them from buying handguns that are in "common use."

They claimed that the law "arbitrarily distinguishes between otherwise identical firearms, inherently making arbitrary distinctions among the people who would possess them, and arbitrarily bars people from possessing handguns deemed safe for others."

They claimed they were injured by "a significant loss of choice" in their selection of "handguns whose possession and use is secured by the Second Amendment."

The state replied that handguns remain widely available in California and that more than 1 million handgun transactions have occurred in the state since the lawsuit was filed in 2009.

The roster of "not unsafe" handguns includes more than 1,000 models, so the law does not even remotely burden the right of self-defense, the state said.

Mueller agreed with the state, finding that California's law "does not effectively ban firearms."

"The UHA does not adversely impact the access to and sale of firearms generally; plaintiffs' Second Amendment rights are satisfied by the scheme's allowing the purchase of nearly 1,000 types of rostered firearms. This degree of regulation is negligible and does not burden plaintiffs' rights under the Second Amendment," Mueller wrote in the 28-page ruling.

The right to bear arms does not give individuals the right to keep and carry any weapon they want, in any manner, and for any purpose, Judge Mueller found.

California "has 'express[ed] a preference for' handguns it deems safe, just as it has for 'concealed rather than open carry' of arms. The state 'has the power to do so' subject to the limiting principle that the regulation not 'cut[] off the exercise of the right of the citizen altogether to bear arms, or, under the color of prescribing the mode, render[] the right itself useless.'" (Empty brackets in ruling.)

The Calguns Foundation said it was disappointed that "the district court sidestepped a clear violation of Second Amendment civil rights in its decision."

"Laws that ban law-abiding people from acquiring virtually all modern handguns following a rigorous background check have no constitutional basis and must be overturned," the foundation said in a statement.

Calguns has appealed to the 9th Circuit.

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