A federal judge in Orange County on Monday blocked key provisions of a California law that sharply restricts the sale of new firearms in the state, saying parts of the legislation violate the Second Amendment.
Last year, the California Rifle & Pistol Assn filed a lawsuit against the law. and other gun rights advocates following a landmark 2022 decision by the US Supreme Court that set new standards for evaluating firearms restrictions. The ruling left many laws intended to regulate and limit the sale and use of guns, in California and across the country, at risk of being struck down.
Federal District Court Judge Cormac Carney, sitting in Santa Ana, wrote Monday that California’s requirements for new firearms are unconstitutional and unenforceable. Because of these restrictions, Carney wrote, newer model semi-automatic pistols have not been approved for sale since 2013 and Californians are being forced to buy older and potentially less safe models.
He issued a preliminary injunction that would take effect in two weeks, meaning the state would have to stop enforcing the law. The delay gives the state Justice Department time to appeal.
“The fact is that California gun safety laws save lives, and the California Unsafe Firearms Act is no exception,” said Esq. Gen. Rob Bonta said in a statement. “We will continue to lead efforts to promote and defend California’s gun safety laws. As we move to determine the next steps in this case, Californians should know that this court order has not gone into effect and that California’s important gun safety requirements related to the Unsafe Firearms Act remain in effect.”
In California, state law requires that new handguns have three components: a chamber load indicator, which shows whether the gun is loaded; a magazine disconnect mechanism that will stop firing the weapon if the magazine is not inserted correctly; and the ability to micro-stamp so law enforcement can more easily match spent casings to the weapons from which they were fired.
“No handgun available in the world has these three characteristics,” the judge wrote. “These regulations are having a devastating impact on the ability of Californians to purchase and use new and cutting-edge firearms.”
Older firearms have been protected on what is known as the “list,” or a list of weapons that pass a safety test under the Unsafe Firearms Act.
“Californians have a constitutional right to purchase and use state-of-the-art handguns to protect themselves,” he wrote. “They shouldn’t be forced to settle for handgun models from a decade ago to ensure they remain safe inside or outside the home.”
Previous attempts to challenge the state law, filed before last year’s Supreme Court ruling, failed.
Chuck Michel, director of the California Rifle & Pistol Assn., said all three requirements were “impossible to meet.”
“For decades, this ‘list’ law has deprived law-abiding citizens of the right to choose a firearm appropriate to their individual needs,” he wrote in a statement Monday. “If we can hold on to this great Second Amendment victory, people will be able to choose from thousands of the latest, best, and safest firearms made today.”
Only New York also has a similar micro-stamping requirement, according to gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade association for the firearms industry, praised the preliminary injunction in a statement Monday.
“For too long, the Second Amendment has been significantly infringed upon by elected officials who have taken every opportunity to put obstacles in the way of law-abiding citizens seeking to exercise their Second Amendment rights,” said Lawrence Keane, the organization’s senior vice president. . “The order is the first step in what will be a protracted legal battle, but it is a significant victory.”