California Supreme Court to Review Microstamping Challenge

The state’s high court announced Wednesday it will weigh the case of two firearms industry groups who contend the state’s microstamping mandate is terminally flawed.

The California Supreme Court voted during its petition conference this week to review the case taking on the state’s 2007 unsafe handgun modification requirements.

The suit was originally brought in 2014 by the National Shooting Sports Foundation and the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute, who insisted the legal requirement for semi-auto handguns to mark cartridges with a microscopic array of characters, that identify the make, model and serial number of the pistol upon firing was, “impossible to accomplish.” The groups argued that the technology was unproven in actual field conditions and easy for criminals to defeat.

California Superior Court Judge Donald Black dismissed the case in 2015. In his ruling, Black cited the doctrine of sovereign immunity precluded the argument of the gun industry groups that “the law never requires impossibilities,” and felt the groups lacked standing to sue.

On a subsequent appeal to the California 5th Appellate District, a three-judge panel found last December that NSSF and SAAMI have “a right to present evidence to prove their claim.”

At stake is the ability to purchase newly manufactured semi-auto handguns in the state.

In 2014, just after the California Department of Justice began enforcing the mandate that new pistols submitted for approval to the state’s firearm roster incorporate microstamping capabilities, there were some 1,152 approved models. That roster has since constricted to 744 as legacy handguns, certified for a five-year period, cannot meet the new requirement. All the models currently on the list are scheduled to lose their certification in 2018.

Larry Keane, NSSF senior vice president and general counsel, told on Thursday their fight to prove that microstamping is a nascent, unproven and unreliable technology that should not have been mandated will prevail.

“We are confident the California Supreme Court will uphold the Court of Appeal ruling allowing our case to proceed to trial where we will prove that it is impossible to microstamp a firearm in compliance with California’s ill-advised law that has resulted in no new models of pistols being available to purchase in the state since the law was implemented,” said Keane.

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