California Lawmakers Aim To Speed Up State's Slow-Motion Handgun Ban

Lawmakers in California have returned to the state capitol in Sacramento after an extended summer recess, and they’ve got several gun control bills in their sights. None of them are good, but one in particular could result in an almost total ban on handgun sales in the state, all in the name of public safety.

NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action reports that the Senate Public Safety Committee is scheduled to hear AB 2847 on Friday, and will likely send the measure on to the full Senate for a quick vote as well. The legislation makes some changes to the state’s existing microstamping law, and none of them will be good for gun owners.

Under existing state law, every new model of handgun sold in the state must be able to imprint (or microstamp) a unique identifying code in two locations on each cartridge as it’s fired. It’s virtually impossible for gun manufacturers to create a handgun that do that, which means that since the law took effect in 2013, no new models of handguns have been made available for sale in California. Even worse, when existing models of handguns undergo any design change whatsoever, even moving a simple screw a millimeter to the left or right, California DOJ has declared the change has resulted in a new handgun model, and that gun gets dropped from the roster of handguns available for sale as well. It’s a slow-motion gun ban, and AB 2847 is going to make things worse. As NRA-ILA points out:

AB 2847, sponsored by Assembly Member David Chiu (D-17), revises the criteria for handguns to be certified for sale by requiring a microstamp in one place on the interior of the handgun (current law requires two imprinting locations). The bill also requires the removal of three certified handguns from the roster for each new handgun added.​  It should be noted that no new semi-automatic handguns have been added to the handgun roster since microstamping was certified in 2013.

By changing the microstamping requirements from two imprinting locations to one, anti-gun lawmakers in California are hoping to spur manufacturers to adopt the practice of putting a microstamp on the firing pin of each handgun. That’s technologically possible, though in practice criminals could easily defeat the technology with a nail file, or by simply swapping out firing pins. I don’t think many legislators are actually concerned about how criminals could get around the supposed crime-fighting technology, frankly. I think they’re much more interested in using the microstamping law to restrict the ability to legally acquire any handgun as much as they can.

If this bill becomes law, for every new model that has a microstamped firing pin, three guns that don’t will be made illegal for sale in the state. California’s handgun roster has already shrunk dramatically thanks to the state DOJ’s interpretation of what constitutes a “new model,” and AB 2847 would gut the roster even further, leaving Californians with few options for the most commonly sold class of firearms in the country.

Or how about this nightmare scenario: an anti-gun billionaire like Michael Bloomberg decides to buy a gun company like Remington, which just declared bankruptcy, and uses it to pump out limited quantities of many models of microstamped handguns, each model only slightly different from the next. If Bloomberg Arms were to release 30 different varieties of handguns, then 90 existing handguns would disappear for sale in the state, even if Bloomberg Arms only produced something like 50 handguns for each model.

As of right now there are 826 models of handguns that are available (in theory, anyway) for sale in California. It might seem like a stretch for an anti-gun gun company to create 275 different models of microstamped handguns, which would wipe out the existing roster, but if you’ve got billions of dollars at your disposal, anything’s possible. I don’t think it’s likely that would happen, but if AB 2847 becomes law, it’s a certainty that anti-gun activists and politicians will get pretty creative to deny Californians the ability to protect themselves and their loved ones with a pistol.