California Forcing Guns Off the Market

California has long been on a sickening, spiral path toward flushing all individual rights down the toilet. Few states have such a powerful and overreaching state government and nowhere is that overreach more apparent than in the state's gun laws.

Back in 2000, California legislators instituted a system supposedly intended to protect the state's citizens from cheap, poorly made, unreliable handguns – you know, the kind poor people can afford and that you would prefer criminals to have as opposed to accurate and reliable ones. They called them "junk guns" and said they should be banned because they were disproportionately being used in crime. Instead of trying to make a list of "evil features" like they've done with "assault weapons," the legislature went the opposite route, creating a roster of approved, "safe" handguns, and banning as "unsafe" any handgun that is not listed on the roster.

In order for a gun to be included on the roster, it must be submitted to a panel of "experts" who test and evaluate it in accordance with a long, convoluted list of criteria. Gun companies are charged for this "service," and must pay thousands of dollars for evaluation of each model and variation they wish to sell in the state. Even cosmetic features such as a gun's color and finish are included in this requirement, resulting in idiotic situations where one gun is declared "safe" while an identical gun of the same make and model is listed as unsafe simply because it has a nitride, rather than a blued finish and the manufacturer didn't pay to have the nitride version evaluated. In the real world this would be called extortion.

In 2003, legislators passed a law adding requirements for a loaded chamber indicator and a magazine disconnect. They followed those requirements with a new edict in 2008 mandating that semi-auto handguns include Microstamping technology to transfer identification marks to shell casing when fired. This provision was only supposed to go into effect after at least 2 companies were offering the technology without patent or licensing issues, but California Attorney General Kamala Harris activated the provision last year.

No major handgun manufacturers currently use Microstamping in their handguns – none. Furthermore, Ruger, Glock, and Smith & Wesson have all declared that they have no intention of adding the expensive technology. Handgun models currently on the roster can continue to be sold in the state as long as the company makes no changes to the design or features, and continues to pay the annual recertification fees. But any gun that is changed in any way, and any new models that come out, will be illegal for commercial sale in California.

Gun companies have already incurred significant expense developing and producing "California compliant" versions of their guns, and they say Microstamping could cost an additional $100 to $200 per gun. On top of that, no one knows what would be required to get Microstamping functional in a full-production factory setting; it has only ever been applied in a laboratory environment.

Last year, there were almost 820 different models and variations of semi-auto handguns on the California Roster of Safe Handguns. The Calguns Foundation estimates that number will go down by approximately 125 guns per year as manufacturers make routine changes to their existing models and it becomes impractical to continue manufacture of older, obsolete versions. At that rate, it is expected that virtually all semi-auto handguns could be illegal for commercial sale in the state within the next ten years. And that decline rate could be accelerated precipitously if the California legislature decides to require some change to existing models – forcing them to be reevaluated for the roster. Currently no mainstream gun manufacturer could comply, nor is any likely to be able to within the next decade.

The Calguns Foundation, along with the Second Amendment Foundation, has filed a federal lawsuit challenging California's Safe Gun Roster. That case is pending a ruling on summary judgment in Federal District Court and, regardless of the outcome, is expected to continue through the 9thCourt of Appeals and possibly the Supreme Court. The legal team includes Donald Kilmer, Jason Davis, and Alan Gura, who was lead attorney in both of the landmark Heller and McDonald cases before the Supreme Court. A separate suit has been filed on behalf of manufacturers by the National Shooting Sports Foundation and the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers' Institute.

As always with gun control laws, the laws in California are having no effect on their disproportionately high crime rates – representing 68% of all "gun murders" in the nation – but are seriously impacting the ability of honest citizens to acquire the firearms of their choice. California's insane laws have already driven up handgun prices in addition to limiting consumers' options and availability. Now they are resulting in more and more guns being completely removed from the marketplace – but not from criminals.

©2014 The Firearms Coalition, all rights reserved. Reprinting, posting, and distributing permitted with inclusion of this copyright statement. www.FirearmsCoalition.org.

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