March 20, 2023 – The U.S. District Court for the Central District of California has issued an order enjoining the State of California from enforcing its so-called “Unsafe Handgun Act” on the ground that it violates the Second Amendment under New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen, 142 S. Ct. 2111, 2126 (2022). The Unsafe Handgun Act, codified at Cal. Penal Code §§ 31910, 32000, requires any concealable handgun sold in the state to be tested by a certified laboratory and determined to be “not unsafe.” In addition to reliability and drop testing requirements, California requires that every handgun must contain three features: 1) an indicator that could show if a cartridge is present in the chamber (loaded chamber indicator); 2) a mechanism that prevents a handgun from discharging when the magazine is removed or not present (magazine disconnect mechanism); and 3) that it has the ability to stamp microscopic characters representing the handgun’s make, model, and serial number onto cartridge casings when the handgun is fired (microstamping).
In Boland v. Bonta, a group of individual plaintiffs along with the California Rifle & Pistol Association moved for a preliminary injunction to prevent further enforcement of the Unsafe Handgun Act, contending that the imposed requirements violate the Second Amendment. In granting the plaintiffs’ motion, District Judge Cormac J. Carney held that the plaintiffs were likely to succeed in this action since the “challenged provisions unquestionably infringe on the right to keep and bear arms.” Specifically, the Court found that “Plaintiffs seek to purchase state-of-the-art handguns for self-defense,” however California’s regulations restrict civilian purchasers to choose handgun “models from over sixteen years ago.” The Court concluded that “[r]equiring Californians to purchase only outdated handguns for self-defense without question infringes their right to keep and bear arms,” and the Second Amendment includes the right “to acquire state-of-the art handguns for self-defense.”
The Court also observed that California “cannot credibly argue that handguns without [loaded chamber indicators], [magazine disconnect mechanisms], and microstamping features pose unacceptable public safety risks when virtually all of the handguns on the Roster and sold in California today lack those features.” Moreover, Judge Carney noted that the likelihood that a handgun with a loaded chamber indicator and magazine disconnect mechanism will prevent accidental shootings, injuries, or deaths “is entirely speculative.”
This ruling could have significant implications for the firearms industry since virtually all recent firearm models were effectively banned for consumer purchases in California as a result of these mandatory requirements.  It is probable that California will appeal this ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Judge Carney set this preliminary injunction to take effect in fourteen days to allow the government to file an appeal and seek a further stay of the injunction in the Ninth Circuit.
Renzulli Law Firm, LLP will continue to monitor this litigation as well as other challenges to unconstitutional state firearm regulations around the country.  If you have any questions concerning this preliminary injunction or other firearms industry litigation, please contact John F. Renzulli or Christopher Renzulli.