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An Issue of Legislation in California

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California’s Hidden Problem

In the name of safety, one can no longer purchase the latest model handgun. Legislation in California has gradually been restricting the models of handguns consumers could purchase. The reason for the rapid increase in regulations on the purchase of handguns is, simply, safety. Traditionally, safety is an appropriate reason to prevent a firearm from being sold. However, in terms of California’s legislation, the Roster of Handguns Certified for Sale (RHCS), introduced impractical technical requirements; an infringement upon our Second Amendment rights, as well as a hypocritical exemption list. Ultimately, the RHCS ought to be overturned by the Supreme Court.

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The handgun(s) one purchases in California, should be safe to operate. However, what California proposed, has proven to be impossible. For example, if a firearm ruptures in the hand when one is firing a round, or discharges a bullet at random, that firearm should not be sold to any consumer. In the early 2000’s, California desired all handguns to require chamber loaded indicators, as well as drop safety mechanisms, in order for the firearm to be on its RHCS. Those were reasonable safety requirements and it assisted to prevent the individual(s) from causing accidental firearm related incidents. In RHCS most recent requirement, microstamping – the act of a firing pin and barrel leaving identifying marks on a shell casing – does not exist in any handgun in the world. The UC Davis Forensic Science Graduate Group, conducted a study to test the firing pin’s ability to transfer a marking onto the primer; it worked to a degree. The study ultimately concluded, “At the current time it is not recommended that a mandate for implementation of this technology in all semiautomatic handguns in the state of California be made. Further testing, analysis and evaluation is required” (Howitt, Tulleners, Beddow, 11). The study was conducted over decade ago, and in recent years, further research and development have been done. Unfortunately, no progress had been made toward a reliable dual marking system. Furthermore, one of the largest gun manufacturers in the world, Smith & Wesson, had publicly stated that the technology will not be put into their firearms as, “a number of studies have indicated that microstamping is unreliable…” (Mather 1). Gun manufacturers and researchers have expressed the technological issues with microstamping, however, California law demands the technology to be required in all handguns.

Since the introduction of the microstamping requirement in 2013, the number of handguns available on the RHCS, according to the lawyer, Ivan Pena, had dropped by 43.5%. The reasoning behind the dramatic decline of handguns available on the RHCS include: Gun manufacturers stopped producing 4+ year old model handguns, refused to pay the fees to keep their handguns on the California market, and lastly, no new semi-automatic handguns could be added to the roster. The newly introduced safety requirement, microstamping, is a legal loophole that allows the sale of handguns to be banned in the state of California. This is a direct infringement upon every California citizens 2nd Amendment right.

What is most unjust of the RHCS, is the exemption list that allows a special people to purchase unsafe handguns. The exemption list grows annually. Not only do law enforcement officers have the ability to purchase unsafe handguns, Pen. Code, § 32000 allow security guards at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), to be a part of the exemption list. Handguns in California that are defined as unsafe to operate, are capable of being purchased by law enforcement officers to use in the line of duty. For example, the Santa Barbara Police Department’s official handgun for their officers is the Sig 320 (Clementine 1). This handgun is considered unsafe according to California’s legislation due to the lack of microstamping and drop safety mechanisms. For instance, a Connecticut police officer had accidentally discharged a round when he dropped his Sig 320, yet it is continued to be used by California police officers (Mizokami 1). It is illogical to allow officers, whom carry a handgun everyday in the line of duty, to potentially endanger the safety of those around them as a result using a handgun that is considered unsafe. Additionally, allowing the DMV security guards exemption is absurd. DMV security guards lack proper training, and therefore should not be allowed to use unsafe handguns. If a handgun is unsafe to use by definition of the state, that handgun should not be allowed to be used by any citizen in the state. The exemption list should not exist, due to the fact, it would suggest the roster’s actual intent is to ban the sale of handguns.

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Opponents, such as lawyer Stephen Lindley, argue that the RHCS is not a total ban on the sale of handguns, simply because there are still several handguns on the market. Unfortunately, that is not true. Realistically, a total ban on the sale of handguns is not far-fetched. On average, 10 percent of handgun models get removed from the roster each year. As of the most recent roster update, there are about 700 handgun models available for purchase. Revolvers make up approximately 400 of the approved unsafe handgun models. Revolvers will always lack the chamber loaded indicators and microstamping due to their fundamental design. If California’s Department of Justice decides to enforce a decade-old legislation that would require chamber loaded indicators, all revolvers would instantly be banned from consumer purchase. Enforcement of pre-existing legislation is not far-fetched by any means as stated previously. Subsequently, after over a decade of research, there have been no working methods for dual marking microstamping. If microstamping legislation is enforced, there will be no more handguns legally available to citizens.

California’s Roster of Handguns Certified for Sale is unconstitutional as a result of recent legislation, microstamping, which would ban every handgun from sale. California Legislation, additionally, is hypocritical because officers and other exemptions are allowed to purchase and operate unsafe handguns in the line of duty. If handguns are defined by California as “unsafe,” there should be no reason as to why an exemption should continue. Therefore, California’s legislation should be overturned by the Supreme Court.

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