Calif. handgun safety rules unconstitutional, Federal judge rules.

The California law severely restricted the ability for Californians to purchase new firearms, allowing them to only buy weapons manufactured 16-years-ago or older.

A Federal judge struck down a California law that significantly reduced the ability of Californians to purchase up-to-date firearms. 

The law, Judge Cormac Carney ruled on Monday, violated the Second Amendment. 


The backstory: California’s Unsafe Handgun Act was first enacted in 2007 and required handguns to have particular safety features, including a chamber load indicator and a magazine disconnect mechanism. 

  • In 2013, the law was amended to require guns to have microstamping technology. Such technology transfers microscopic numbers representing the make, model and serial number onto shell casings when the gun is fired. 
  • Since 2013, not a single semiautomatic handgun has been introduced for sale in California. 

The big picture: In his ruling, Carney noted that there is not a single handgun available in the world that has all three features required by the Unsafe Handgun Act. 

  • Since the law was enacted, Californians are largely restricted to purchasing handgun models that are at least 16 years old, the only guns that have been legally allowed to be sold in the state. 
  • Carney ruled that the Unsafe Handgun Act violates the right to self-defense because it prevents Californians from purchasing current models of firearms. 

What we’re watching: California Attorney General Rob Bonta defended the law in court and plans to appeal Carney’s decision. 

  • Carney agreed to delay his ruling by two weeks to give Bonta time to appeal and keep the law alive in the meantime. 

What they’re saying: “The Second Amendment enshrines a fundamental constitutional right for law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms for self-defense,” Carney wrote in his ruling. “Increasingly in modern times, with ‘the ubiquity of guns and our country’s high level of gun violence,’ ordinary law-abiding people feel a need to possess handguns to protect themselves against violence.” 

  • Carney reiterated the right for Californians to acquire and use state-of-the-art handguns to protect themselves. 
  • “They should not be forced to settle for decade-old models of handguns to ensure that they remain safe inside or outside the home,” Carney ruled. “But unfortunately, the [Unsafe Handgun Act’s] requirements do exactly that.”
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