Appeals Courts Shoots Down Microstamping Gun Control Law

By William Vogeler, Esq. on December 02, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A California appeals court just affirmed a substantial roadblock to the 2007 "microstamp" bullets law. The law was touted as the first of its kind to help law enforcement fight gun crimes with microstamp technology linking bullet casings to guns. However, the Fifth District Court of Appeal said the law wrongly required a technology that gun manufacturers could not produce.

"It is unreasonable to require an individual to attempt what is impossible to accomplish," the justices said in reversing and remanding the case.

A Win for California Gun Owners

Hannah Shearer, an attorney with the Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said the argument that gun manufacturers can't comply with the law is bogus and will be rejected by the trial court. "California's microstamping law gives law enforcement a strong tool to investigate and solve gun crimes and also combat gun trafficking," she said.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation Inc. and Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers' Institute Inc., which brought the legal challenge, said there is no technology available to comply with the law. Since the microstamping law was implemented in 2014, gun makers said, not one new semi-automatic handgun model has been sold by dealers in California and hundreds of pistols have been taken off the state's firearm roster because even minor changes render the gun a new model.

"Californians are stuck buying out-of-date, previous generation pistols from an ever-dwindling DOJ-approved handgun roster," said the California Rifle and Pistol Association. "The appeals court's decision is an important win for all California gun owners."

Dead in Its Tracks?

In its unanimous opinion, the Fifth District said the Legislature required dual microstamping to prevent criminals from defeating the process by defacing or removing the firing pin. Allowing two stamps on the firing pin would not serve that purpose in gun control.

"We must accept appellants' claim that it is impossible to effectively microstamp the required characters on any part of a semiautomatic pistol other than the firing pin," the appeals panel said.

A separate lawsuit challenging the gun control law on constitutional grounds is pending before a federal appeals court in San Francisco. Meanwhile, California still has some of the toughest gun control laws in the nation.

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