MOXIE: The CCR News Source

Why California’s Microstamping Law is a Backdoor Handgun Ban

December 7, 2020
Sheldon Fraley

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When politicians claim to support “common sense” gun control measures, what do they really mean? At what point do “common sense” gun control measures leave the common out of the sense? Well look no further than to one of California’s most spectacular “common sense” gun control laws…handgun microstamping. What is microstamping you ask? In order to answer the complexity of this question, let’s have a quick history lesson.

According to an article published in 2018 by the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, California enacted a bill in 2007 that created a handgun roster with guns that were deemed “safe” by the state of California. These requirements included a drop test and 2 microstamps on semiautomatic handguns. Revolvers were exempt from this requirement. This requirement meant that all “new models of semi-automatic handguns could not be sold unless the gun was equipped with “microstamping” technology that allowed the make, model, and serial number of the pistol to be imprinted in “two or more places” internally so that, theoretically, this information would imprint on each cartridge case when the gun was fired.”

The theory behind this roster is that it makes it easier for law enforcement to solve gun violence incidents.

In 2013, this handgun roster was fully approved when the California Department of Justice certified that microstamping technology was available, thus making the 2007 law valid in the eyes of state law.

This caused Smith and Wesson and Ruger to stop selling their newer semi-automatic handguns since they stated that, “a number of studies have indicated that microstamping is unreliable, serves no safety purpose, is cost prohibitive and, most importantly, is not proven to aid in preventing or solving crimes.”

It also must be noted that according to the California DOJ website, this microstamping requirement does not apply to “Private party transfers, curio/relic handguns, certain single-action revolvers, and pawn/consignment returns.”

As of 2020, there are 829 semi-automatic pistols and revolvers certified for sale in California. According to a San Diego County Gun Owners website page and confirmed by the CA DOJ, law enforcement officers are exempt from this handgun roster. Meaning that they can buy whatever type of new model handgun they want.

​For instance, Glock is a popular model of handgun for police and civilian shooters. In California, no Gen 4 or Gen 5 Glocks have been approved for sale for civilians. However, law enforcement officers can buy them. The only differences between Gen 3 and Gen 4 are cosmetic and ergonomic differences. But according to the handgun roster, the Gen 4 is a completely different  gun from the Gen 3. If Glock wanted to add the Gen 4 and Gen 5 models, they would have to have microstamping, as well as a loaded chamber indicator and a magazine disconnect. These three things are not part of the Glock design and would be too costly for manufacturers to make one specific line of handguns for California only.


Recently, a bill authored by assemblyman David Chiu (D- San Francisco) called AB 2847 passed the California House and Assembly and was signed by Governor Newsom during the final hours of the 2020 legislative session. This bill updates the current Microstamping Law and requires that all new semi-automatic handguns have one microstamp on the firing pin instead of 2, a loaded chamber indicator and a magazine disconnect in order for it to be legal to sell as a new firearm in California. For every new gun added to the list that features these requirements, 3 must come off the list. This bill will become law on July 1, 2022. No new firearms have been added to the roster since 2013 in California.

It seems rather odd that if one new gun is added to the list, 3 must come off. Why not 0, 1, 2, or even 5? Why is 3 the magic number? This law might sound good at first. Who doesn’t want the police to be able to track guns used in shootings?

The problem with the California handgun roster is that it is not one of those “common sense” gun laws that seem to be promoted by mainstream Democrat politicians.

First, microstamping technology will not reduce violent crime and gun violence in California. There are millions of non-microstamped firearms in California already. A criminal wanting to use a gun in a homicide can use a revolver, an older non-microstamped handgun, or if microstamping becomes more popular, go to a gun range and pick someone else’s spent shell casings and throw it at a crime scene. Also, a piece of sandpaper and 20 minutes of filing down the firing pin, it can be defeated. There are an estimated 20 million guns already in California based on a 2019 article from The Sacramento Bee.

Second, due to a lack of availability of new semi-automatic handguns, Californians are unable to buy the newest technology to protect themselves. Because of private-party transfers and used guns being exempt from the roster, it makes non-roster handguns much more expensive to legally obtain, further hurting poorer people from being able to defend themselves.

Third, it is absolutely unconstitutional. Despite the handgun roster being upheld in court as recently as 2018, it is just a way for California to limit law-abiding citizens from purchasing a handgun to defend themselves. In a state with close to 40 million people and in 2018, with over 1760,00 violent crimes and over 940,000 property crimes, self-defense is not a pie in the sky idea like Democrats like to think.

It can be argued that background checks and red-flag law are common sense gun laws. But California’s microstamping law and its handgun roster are just ways that Democrat politicians can slowly ban guns through a backdoor handgun ban.

The effects of this new bill will most likely mean the slow decrease of semi-automatic handguns on California’s roster until citizens are only left with revolvers, at which point all is fair game to go after those as well. There will still be millions of non-microstamped handguns ready to be used by criminals, yet law abiding citizens will have fewer options to protect themselves.

“As California goes, so does the nation” ​

While it is easy to make fun of California and their ridiculous policies, it is equally as ridiculous to think that backdoor handgun bans, and other gun laws written by people who have no knowledge about firearms will stay in California. Maryland, Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia now all have handgun rosters.

​The only thing gun control does is restrict the rights of law-abiding citizens to protect themselves. Liberal politicians claim that restricting guns helps “public safety,” but in reality, it is about control. They do not want well-informed and law-abiding citizens to make decisions for themselves. Something as basic as the right to self-preservation, is up to the laws enacted by politicians who are voted in by citizens who are not well-informed on what policies are being passed. If you ask an average Californian what the state’s gun laws are, they probably couldn't tell you.

While it might be easy for gun owners to move to “gun friendly” states, liberal ideas and gun control laws spread. Not to mention opinions on certain forms of gun control receive Bipartisan support. When many voters who have never been around guns hear politicians rallying behind the phrase “more gun control,” citizens do not think twice. However, when California claimed to support gun control, they did not stop at background checks and mandatory waiting periods. They moved on to a backdoor handgun ban, labeled as “handgun microstamping.”

​It is our job as conservatives to fight for the Second Amendment. It is one thing to point out the ridiculousness of California gun laws. It is another thing to translate that into votes at the polling booth.


Moxie History

​Moxie was originally CCR's print Magazine, which ran from c. 2003-2011. Moxie functioned as both a news source and a yearbook for College Republicans before the social media age. Moxie was very popular in its print days — and even made its way in the hands of prominent political commentator Sean Hannity! Chairmen Emeriti Dylan Martin and Nick Ortiz revived Moxie in 2020 as CCR's news arm.

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