Federal Judge Declines to Stop Microstamping Handgun Ban in California

California Eastern District Judge Kimberly Mueller declined to stop the state from imposing a ban on the sale of new handguns that aren’t microstamped. Unless the case is overturned on appeal, this decision would effectively ban the sale or possession of new semi-auto handguns in the state.

The case, Peña v. Lindley, dates from 2009, and it pitted California resident Ivan Peña and three other individual plaintiffs against Stephen Lindley, the chief of the California Department of Justice’s Bureau of Firearms. At issue was the state’s “microstamping” law, which was signed into law by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2007 , but didn’t take effect until 2013.

During a short period in which the Second Amendment applied to states and local governments within the federal Ninth Circuit through a case called Nordyke v. King, Peña, Roy Vargas, Doña Croston, Brett Thomas, The Calguns Foundation and the Second Amendment Foundation filed a federal civil rights lawsuit called Peña v. Cid (now Peña v. Lindley) against the California Department of Justice that challenged the constitutionality of the state’s “Handgun Roster” laws.

The Peña case, argued by civil rights attorneys Alan Gura, Donald Kilmer, and Jason Davis, was argued at the trial court on December 17, 2013.

Since the law took effect, no manufacturer has made a new firearm that complies with the requirement. Smith & Wesson and Sturm, Ruger & Co., have stopped selling new firearms in the California market because of the microstamping law.

Peña, gun manufacturers, and attorneys for the Second Amendment Foundation and Calguns Foundation argued that microstamping relies on an unworkable technology. So if guns without the technology can’t be sold in California and gun manufacturers can’t implement the technology, the law effectively functions as a handgun ban that violates the Second Amendment.

According to a Calguns Foundation statement about Judge Mueller’s decision, the group is “disappointed that the district court sidestepped a clear violation of Second Amendment civil rights in its decision today. However, we are absolutely committed to litigating this case as far as necessary to reverse this incorrect ruling and restore the right to keep and bear modern handguns in the Golden State.

“It is utterly preposterous that a Federal Court would rule that a ban on all new semi-automatic handguns does not burden Second Amendment rights,” the Calguns statement continued. “Such a decision conflicts with Ninth Circuit precedent, much less the Supreme Court’s holdings in Heller and McDonald v. Chicago.”

The case is currently on appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

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