Attorney General Becerra Secures Victory Before California Supreme Court in National Shooting Sports Foundation v. State of California

Thursday, June 28, 2018
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SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today issued the following statement after the California Supreme Court rejected gun industry groups’ challenge to the State’s “microstamping” law. Microstamping—a ballistics identification technology—can serve as an important tool for law enforcement during investigations and can deter gun crimes. As of May 2013, no new semiautomatic handgun model can be sold in California unless it comes equipped with technology that allows every fired cartridge to be tied to a gun.

“Today’s ruling confirms that California can create incentives for the gun industry to make products that serve the public’s needs,” said Attorney General Becerra. “Innovation and technology will continue to drive California to be a leader. We will not go backwards. The California Department of Justice is committed to reducing gun violence and improving the ability of law enforcement to fight crime and hold accountable those who commit firearm murders and assaults.”

Manufacturers that want to add new models of semiautomatic handguns to California's approved list must comply with the law by adding microstamping technology—which imprints a microscopic array of identifying characters unique to the gun on each fired cartridge—or some equally effective alternative technology.

In January 2014, the microstamping requirement was challenged by two manufacturer trade groups in the Fresno Superior Court. The plaintiffs claimed that it is impossible to comply with the microstamping requirement because, they alleged, the technology is neither reliable nor ready for market. The Fresno Superior Court dismissed their non-constitutional “impossibility” challenge for failure to state a claim. In December 2017, the Fifth District Court of Appeal reinstated the litigation, holding that the manufacturers had a right to challenge the law under this theory. The California Supreme Court granted review on March 22, 2017, and heard oral arguments on April 4, 2018. Today the Court ruled that courts may not invalidate statutes on the basis of a non-constitutional “impossibility” challenge.

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