The California Supreme Court ruled unanimously to throw out a lawsuit challenging California’s law requiring new semi-automatic handguns to microstamp identifiers on shell casings when the gun is fired.
The lawsuit, NSSF v. State of California, filed by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, argues that the law should be overturned because the technology to implement it does not exist.
The law requires a set of characters to be stamped in two places on every cartridge fired by a semi-automatic handgun. While it would take relatively little modification to add microstamping to the firing pin, firearms would have to undergo major changes, and use some technology that doesn’t exist, to stamp the casing in a second location.
The state argued that a law should not be struck down simply because it is impossible to implement. Instead, they said, legal requirements often force companies and industries to innovate.
Regardless of whether innovation ultimately creates a solution, gun makers are likely to argue that the requirements create an unnecessary obstacle to the exercise of the right to bear arms. Gun makers would have to create two versions of affected handguns – one for California and one for the rest of the United States. The costs for the California versions would be born by gun enthusiasts in a single state likely making the compliant firearms much more expensive and less available. Most gun makers would likely just not sell new firearms into the Golden State if the law survives what will likely be challenges all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In fact, that has already happened.
The law, passed in 2007, had not been enforced until 2014 when a patent for certain microstamping technology expired which allowed manufacturers to use it. Once that happened, then-State Attorney General Kamala Harris announced that the law would be enforced and since that day, Californians have had their Second Amendment rights seriously abridged.
Since the 2014 implementation of the microstamping law, not a single new semi-automatic handgun model has been sold by dealers in California because manufacturers simply cannot produce a form of microstamping technology in their pistols that meets California’s requirement. Californians are stuck buying out-of-date, previous generation pistols from an ever-dwindling DOJ-approved handgun roster. Because of the inability of Californians to have access to the latest technology in the same safe and reliable handguns that are available to the rest of the nation, NSSF filed a lawsuit claiming California’s microstamping requirement is illegal under a California statute prohibiting laws that impose impossible conditions.
A separate case concerning microstamping is currently in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and may be pushed all the way to the Supreme Court in October – shortly after President Trump’s nominee is likely to have been seated making the court a full 5-4 in favor of a conservative view of the constitution.
Editor’s note: Since the case was arguing a state law, this exact case, NSSF v California, may not be appealed. But since there is a question of constitutionality (the second amendment) the Supreme Court may hear an appeal to this decision despite the state scope. Calguns has also filed a Second Amendment case concerning microstamping which is now in the 9th circuit, we’ll have to see if it continues to SCOTUS.