June 4, 2023

CRPA’s Boland v. Bonta case has achieved tremendous success in striking down provisions of California’s misnamed “Unsafe Handgun Act.” This law created the much-maligned “roster” of handguns approved for sale in California that has prevented Californians from being able to purchase thousands of the latest and safest semiautomatic handguns that are commonly available in all other states.

Since 2013 the UHA has prevented pistol manufacturers from accessing the California handgun market – one of the biggest in the nation. If CRPA can hold on to this victory, manufacturers and retailers will once again be able to sell to the California market, and purchasers will be able to buy the pistols that are most appropriate for their individual circumstances. Considering that more permits to carry a firearm are now being issued in California than ever before, there is a tremendous demand for these latest models.

On March 20, 2023, a federal judge in Orange County (Judge Cormac Carney) granted the CRPA’s motion to preliminarily enjoin the UHA’s three most troublesome requirements. Those require semiautomatic pistols to have 1) a chamber load indicator (CLI), 2) a magazine disconnect mechanism (MDM), and 3) microstamping.

When Judge Carney ordered the preliminary injunction, he entered a 14-day “stay” on his Order. This temporarily stopped the injunction from taking effect so that the State had time to seek a longer stay from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal while the case was appealed.

Judge Carney’s preliminary injunction Order did not expressly enjoin the recently enacted (operative as of July 1, 2022) UHA provision that requires the California Department of Justice (CDOJ) to remove three semiautomatic handguns from the roster for every new semiautomatic model added that has CLI, MDM, and microstamping. As of right now, it is unclear whether the DOJ might try to apply this 3-to-1 deletion provision if a manufacturer were to submit a new semiautomatic handgun that bears CLI and MDM to the Roster. But we are informed informally that the DOJ is not going to do that, and as explained below, DOJ did not remove any handguns when two new Ruger rimfire pistols were added in late May 2023. So, it seems that for now, DOJ is correctly interpreting the removal provision are not in effect.

The State of California immediately appealed the Boland Order and a similar injunction was granted in another case challenging the UHA. The cases have been consolidated on appeal. Briefing will be complete as of early June 2023, and the Ninth Circuit has announced that it will hold oral argument likely toward the end of the Summer of 2023. Multiple prestigious and impressive amicus briefs were filed supporting CRPA on Friday June 2nd.

In an interesting twist, the State’s motion in the Ninth Circuit to extend the stay did not seek to stop the injunction against the microstamping requirement. The State only asked for the Ninth Circuit to extend the stay as to the CLI and MDM provisions. So, 14 later on April 3, 2023, microstamping was enjoined and is no longer a requirement to get a pistol on the roster of handguns that can be sold in California. (We know of a bill that is working its way through the legislature regarding microstamping. CRPA is carefully following and adamantly opposing that bill).

Manufacturers Can Get Some New Models on the Roster NOW

Aside from microstamping not being an operative requirement, the remainder of the UHA’s requirements for admitting a semiautomatic pistol to be added to the roster are unchanged. Manufacturers can still submit cosmetically different versions of models already on the roster pursuant to the usual processes, and manufacturers that want to get a new semiautomatic centerfire handgun on the roster must still meet two of the operative feature requirements (a positive manually operative safety feature, CLI, and MDM) and satisfy the drop-safety and firing reliability test. (See California Penal Code § 31910).

The same applies to rimfire semiautomatics, except that rimfire semiautomatics do not need to have a CLI.

Thanks to the Boland suit, however, microstamping is no longer required on either centerfire or rimfire semiautomatic handguns.

Taking advantage of this, Ruger added two new rimfire models (the SR22 and the MK IV) to the Roster on May 24, 2023. (See https://oag.ca.gov/firearms/certified-handguns/recently-added). When the Ruger models were added, DOJ did not remove any other handguns from the roster.

In speaking with the operators of the testing labs, we have been informed that multiple other manufacturers have submitted pistols for the drop safety and firing reliability testing.

CRPA Still Has Work to Do

While the appeals are pending in the Ninth Circuit, CRPA is still hard at work in the trial court. A Motion for Summary Judgment has been filed, asking the district court to enjoin the entire Unsafe Handgun Act. We sought this relief in our Complaint, but narrowed the relief we sought in the Motion for Preliminary Injunction. The Motion for Summary Judgment requires extensive and laborious brief drafting, paying expert witnesses, oral argument preparation, and likely appeal.

CRPA requests that those who might benefit from striking down the UHA support our efforts through a donation to the 501(c)(3) CRPA Foundation. NSSF is helping, and we thank them for their support. But CRPA would greatly appreciate additional support from all industry stakeholders who stand to benefit from CRPA’s ongoing efforts in this and our other 2A lawsuits that seek to strike down the semi-auto ban, the law that restricts ammunition purchases, and the standard capacity magazine ban, among others.

For more information, be sure to visit CRPA’s website at www.CRPA.org. And be sure to subscribe to CRPA email alerts to stay informed on the latest developments.