If you’ve never bought a handgun in California, good for you because the state law has been a train wreck, at least until recently when a federal judge struck down provisions in the law he found unconstitutional.
In the process, Judge Cormac J. Carney granted a preliminary injunction to the plaintiffs but granted a 14-day grace period during which the state could appeal the ruling. By the time you read this, the appeal should be in the works.
But Judge Carney’s 22-page ruling contained some gems, and he was blunt about the problems with a handgun “roster” law that has plagued Golden State gun owners for years. As any California can attest, the law has prevented new pistols from being marketed in the state unless they meet some strict standards which, upon reflection, seem deliberately engineered to keep new handgun models out, and perhaps ultimately eliminate handguns altogether.
Hang on while we take you through the word salad of California’s handgun ownership (prevention) law. “UHA” refers to the state law, known as the “Unsafe Handgun Act.” “CLI” refers to “chamber loaded indicator.” And, finally, MDM refers to “magazine disconnect mechanism.” Got it? Good, because here’s a bit of Judge Carney’s wisdom:
“Californians have the constitutional right to acquire and use state-of-the-art handguns to protect themselves,” Judge Carney observed. “They should not be forced to settle for decade-old models of handguns to ensure that they remain safe inside or outside the home. But unfortunately, the UHA’s CLI, MDM, and microstamping requirements do exactly that.
“California’s Unsafe Handgun Act (the “UHA”) seeks to prevent accidental discharges by requiring handguns to have particular safety features,” the judge acknowledged. “First, the UHA requires certain handguns to have a chamber load indicator (“CLI”), which is a device that indicates whether a handgun is loaded.
“Second,” he explained, “the UHA requires certain handguns to have a magazine disconnect mechanism (“MDM”), which prevents a handgun from being fired if the magazine is not fully inserted.
“Third,” Judge Carney concluded, “the UHA requires certain handguns to have the ability to transfer microscopic characters representing the handgun’s make, model, and serial number onto shell casings when the handgun is fired, commonly referred to as microstamping capability. No handgun available in the world has all three of these features.” Right, we’re talking about “microstamping,” and as noted by the judge, “The microstamping requirement has prevented any new handgun models from being added to the Roster since May 2013.”
Who Is Judge Carney?
Cormac Joseph Carney was chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California until he stepped down in 2020 over an incident involving alleged insensitive remarks to Kiry Gray, clerk of the Court.
He was born in Detroit in 1959, but was raised in Long Beach, Calif., graduating from high school there and going on to UCLA, where he played wide receiver for the Bruins football team. He practiced law in Los Angeles and was appointed to the California Superior Court. From there, he was nominated to the federal district court by former President George W. Bush and was confirmed by the Senate in April 2003.
He and his wife have three children, according to an online biography.
Enter the Double Standard
If it weren’t for double standards, California anti-gunners would have no standards at all.
To the point: In Judge Carney’s ruling, he notes, “The UHA’s prohibition on sales of ‘unsafe’ handguns is subject to exceptions as well. It does not apply to sales to law enforcement personnel, personnel from agencies including the California Highway Patrol, the Department of Justice, the Youth and Adult Correctional Agency, and the district attorney’s office, or any member of the military.”
He later adds, “if Off-Roster firearms were truly unsafe, California would not allow law enforcement to use them in the line of duty, when the stakes are highest. But the substantial majority of California’s law enforcement officers use Off-Roster handguns in the line of duty.”
And he points to another inconsistency in California bureaucratic reasoning when he notes, “The government argues that the balance of the equities weighs in its favor because an injunction would ‘permit unsafe handguns to be sold in California prior to trial, creating public safety risks.’
But the government’s safety concern rings hollow. Every single semiautomatic handgun available for sale in California at this time is a grandfathered handgun—one the government ostensibly considers ‘unsafe.’ 800 of 832 handguns on the Roster today lack CLI and MDM features. The government cannot credibly argue that handguns without CLI, MDM, and microstamping features pose unacceptable public safety risks when virtually all of the handguns available on the Roster and sold in California today lack those features.”
Can you say “oops?”
Enter Chuck Michel, a California attorney with years of experience dealing with, and challenging, state gun control laws. With all the laws facing gun owners, Michel has had lots of practice.
The day Judge Carney handed down his ruling, I traded email with Michel, who also happens to be president of the California Rifle & Pistol Association, one of the plaintiffs in the case. His summation of the ruling was unsympathetic to the state.
“For decades this ‘roster’ law has deprived law-abiding citizens of the right to choose a handgun appropriate for their individual needs,” he observed about the Carney ruling. “The loaded chamber indicator, magazine disconnect, and microstamping requirements were impossible to satisfy, so the number of different models of approved handguns available to buy dropped to barely 200.
“And,” he added, “that’s how the politicians who would love to ban handguns entirely wanted it. If we can hold on to this great Second Amendment win, people will be able to choose from among thousands of the latest, greatest, and safest handguns made today.”
I’ve known Michel for about 20 years, and he earned this win, along with every Californian who has ever been victimized by the state handgun laws. Hopefully, the good guys will prevail.
CCRKBA Says Unfund ATF
The Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms recently did something to raise eyebrows. The group called on congressional Republicans to block funding for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
There’s a condition, of course. CCRKBA Chairman Alan Gottlieb said money should be held up “until Democrats and federal bureaucrats publicly recognize Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens, and stop their attacks on legal gun ownership.”
“We’ve seen attacks on Second Amendment rights under previous Democrat presidents,” Gottlieb said in a news release, “but the Biden administration has pulled out all the stops. Joe Biden has publicly declared his desire to ban modern semiautomatic rifles and 9mm pistols, the most popular firearms in the nation.
Millions of honest citizens own semiautomatic rifles for all kinds of uses, including home defense, competition, predator control, recreational shooting and hunting, and they have never harmed anyone. Likewise, millions of men and women own and use 9mm pistols for personal and home protection, training, target shooting, competition, business protection, and other legitimate uses.
“But under Joe Biden,” he continued, “the ATF has been weaponized against law-abiding citizens, and his budget proposal includes $1.9 billion for the agency to expand operations and increase regulation of the firearms industry.
“Clearly,” Gottlieb said, “Biden and the Democrats have decided that American gun owners are their enemy.”