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Stay of block on California handgun rules remains pending appeal

California's Unsafe Handgun Act remains in force while the Ninth Circuit decides whether a federal judge correctly concluded it's unconstitutional.

SAN DIEGO (CN) — A federal judge in San Diego doubled down on a stay of his order forcing California to stop enforcing important components of its handgun control laws while the state appeals the ruling. 

In March, Chief U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw sided with a group of gun owners and gun lobbying groups who claim provisions of California’s Unsafe Handgun Act violate their Second Amendment rights.

In his ruling, Sabraw also stayed his injunction pending the state's appeal of the ruling.

The gun owners and the lobbying groups argued at an informal phone conference Friday that Sabraw should lift the stay or should be given a chance to argue the merits in a brief. In his Friday order, Sabraw noted both parties had already argued about the stay at a hearing in February.

The state filed its appeal in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday, shortly after Sabraw's ruling was issued. Accordingly, Sabraw ruled Friday the matter is out of his hands and a stay is appropriate.

Bradley Benbrook, one of the plaintiffs' lawyers, declined to comment on the most ruling. 

California Attorney General Rob Bonta's office did not return a request for comment by press time.

The Unsafe Handgun Act requires that all handguns manufactured and sold in the state to meet safety device and testing requirements, like a chamber load indicator, visual indicators that show there’s a round in the chamber of a gun, a magazine disconnect mechanism and a microstamp — characters imprinted on bullet casings which can be used to identify the make, model, and serial number of the gun it was fired from. The law also requires the California Department of Justice to keep a roster of all guns that have been tested for safety by the state, and gunmakers must pay an annual fee to keep their products on the roster.  

The gun owners and the lobbying groups claimed that all of the provisions in the act violated their Second Amendment rights to buy handguns, especially new handgun designs. But the state argued the laws don't restrict people from buying handguns — just ones not on the roster.

Sabraw sided with the plaintiffs as to the load indicator, magazine disconnect mechanism, and microstamping requirements, noting that no gun manufacturers in the U.S. microstamp their guns.

“These handguns are sold throughout the United States, in 47 states. California is a distinct outlier,” Sabraw, a George W. Bush appointee, wrote in the preliminary injunction order issued March 31. “If the commercial sales limitation identified in Heller were interpreted as broadly as the state suggests, the exception would swallow the Second Amendment.”  

Sabraw added that the Second Amendment doesn’t make a distinction between makes and models of guns.

“All handguns are covered, so long as they are in common use. Thus, plaintiffs’ ability to commercially purchase off-roster semiautomatic handguns falls within the plain text of the Second Amendment and is presumptively protected," he wrote.

Categories / Government, Law, Regional

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