We’ve all heard the metaphor about boiling a frog: If you put the frog directly into boiling water, it will jump out. But if you put the frog in cool water and slowly turn up the heat, eventually the water will boil and the frog will die.
That’s the tactic the State of California and its Department of Justice are using to implement a sweeping handgun ban, through the Unsafe Handgun Act and related “microstamping” requirement laws, against the law-abiding people in the most populated state in the nation.
Through a regulatory scheme known as the “Roster of Handguns Certified for Sale,” the State extorts annual fees from manufacturers – a “safe” handgun “magically” becomes “unsafe” if they don’t pay the fees – and, like a one-way ratchet, continuously reduces the type of handguns that law-abiding people can acquire by re-classifying them as “unsafe”.
(“Unsafe” handguns, by the way, that are so safe they can be purchased and used for law enforcement duty use as well as for the personal use of Roster-exempt persons….)
But that’s not all. Since then-Attorney General (now U.S. Senator) Kamala Harris mandated the [ghost technology] “microstamping” requirement in May 2013, the DOJ will not add any new semi-automatic pistols to the Roster that don’t have “microstamping” built in.
In 2007, around 1,400 handgun models were on the roster. By 2016, that number had shrunk dramatically to just 782 models. But the high-level numbers don’t tell the entire story. As the saying goes, the devil is in the details: Out of the 782 models on the Roster when DOJ provided us with their data for our research purposes, 262 of them are simply aesthetic variations of other listed models.
Said differently, the Handgun Roster is actually about 33% smaller than it appears by DOJ’s raw numbers alone.
And, as manufacturers stop producing older models (or make changes to current models that get them kicked off the Roster by DOJ), the number and type of perfectly safe, modern (Second Amendment-protected) handguns that law-abiding people can buy will continue to decline.
According to the California DOJ’s own data, and especially taken in the context of the handgun market’s rapid responses to an ever-growing demand for innovative and safer products (at least, in the vast majority of states where freedom allows for those innovations and safety improvements to occur) it won’t be long before handgun buyers in Californians will have few, if any, choices remaining.
While the data continues to prove out that the Roster is really just a dressed-up handgun ban, it isn’t a new conclusion. That point was raised in federal court nearly seven (7!) years ago, when, in April of 2009, The Calguns Foundation, Second Amendment Foundation, and a number of individuals filed a federal civil rights lawsuit (Peña v. Lindley) to challenge the Roster on both Second and Fourteenth Amendment grounds.
Almost 2 years ago (in February of 2015), federal Eastern District of California District Court Judge Kimberly Mueller granted the State’s motion for summary judgment, declaring in her order that the “[Unsafe Handgun Act] does not adversely impact the access to and sale of firearms generally; plaintiffs' Second Amendment rights are satisfied by the scheme's allowing the purchase of nearly 1000 types of rostered firearms. This degree of regulation is negligible and does not burden plaintiffs' rights under the Second Amendment.”
Obviously, we disagreed with that ruling and – on the very same day that Judge Mueller issued her wrongly-decided order – filed a Notice of Appeal with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
After a long wait, the 9th Circuit has scheduled oral arguments in our appeal to take place on March 16, 2017. Attorney Alan Gura (who helmed such notable cases to victory as D.C. v. Heller, McDonald v. Chicago, Ezell v. Chicago, Ezell II, and so many others) will argue on behalf of the plaintiffs.
And, no matter what happens at the 9th Circuit, this case could very well end up at the U.S. Supreme Court.
The California Handgun Roster is a gun ban that should not be allowed to stand. CGF and our attorneys will continue working to restore the Second Amendment until every law-abiding person can exercise their right to keep and bear arms throughout California, and across the nation.