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A little late to this story, due to the demands of an important client, but I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about last week’s Federal Court decision in Peña v. Lindley. Peña and the other plaintiffs brought suit because they allege that the California Unsafe Handgun Act (UHA) effectively barred them from buying handguns that are readily available almost everywhere else in the nation. The UHA . . .

criminalized the manufacture, import, lending, or sale of any “unsafe handgun,” permitting “imprisonment in a county jail [for a period] not exceeding one year.” The term “unsafe handgun” is defined to include any revolver or semiautomatic pistol that is “not already listed on the roster” of “tested handguns determined not to be unsafe” by the California Department of Justice.

Judge Kimberly Muller of the Eastern District of California (nominated by President Obama, and “unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate” in December 2010, for those who are keeping score) frankly admitted that the purpose of the UHA was to “reduce crime by eliminating the sale of cheap handguns,” because “four of five guns used in criminal acts are cheap guns that do not meet drop safety and other gun specification requirements.” Its other purpose was to ensure that handguns “fire when they are supposed to and that they do not fire when dropped” by requiring that all handguns be subject to a “drop test.” That’s a requirement the bill’s author submitted is “fair and reasonable for weapons sold to the public for self-protection. If a weapon is not reliable for self-defense it has no business being sold in California.”

Of course, the UHA is a California anti-gun law, so of course, it isn’t quite as simple as that. Some of the omitted firearms were kept off the list because they hadn’t been tested after something as simple as an ambidextrous magazine release or the color of the frame changed.

Plaintiff Vargas, who was born without an arm below the right elbow, seeks to purchase an unlisted Glock 21 SF with an ambidextrous magazine release. This model is not listed, but the same model without the ambidextrous magazine release is listed. Further, the UHA permits plaintiff to buy the listed model and have it subsequently fitted with the ambidextrous magazine release. Glock attempted to roster the model with the ambidextrous magazine release, but the DOJ determined it was not sufficiently similar to the listed model to be listed without independent testing.

Plaintiff Croston seeks to purchase an unlisted Springfield Armory XD-45 Tactical 5” Bi-Tone stainless steel/black handgun in .45 ACP, model number XD9623. This gun is grandfathered onto the roster but only in other colors. This particular color is not listed because, plaintiffs assert, it was released after the…requirements went into effect.

Despite all of this, the Eastern District found that since the UHA didn’t ban all handguns, it was a-ok. You can buy handguns in California, as long as they’re on the approved roster. Handgun isn’t exactly what you wanted? Too bad, you can get at least one type of handgun, so you’re good. You need a van that can accommodate a wheelchair lift? Fine, you have the right to buy any automobile you want, as long as it’s a Chrysler Sebring.

Later in the decision, the court swatted away the plaintiffs’ argument that they were being denied equal protection under the law, because civilian law enforcement was permitted to acquire some of the very pistols denied to other civilians. Again, the Eastern District frankly admits that the UHA “results in disparate treatment because exempting a group of people from compliance with the UHA imposes different burdens on different classes of people.” But then the Court just shrugs its metaphorical shoulders and says that this doesn’t matter:

Law enforcement personnel shoulder a duty to ensure public safety and thus assume different responsibilities, risks, and rights.

So: civilian law enforcement personnel have more rights than other civilians because–hey, why do you hate law enforcement, commie?

Finally, on microstamping: the plaintiffs argued that since no guns existed using microstamping, ultimately semiautomatic handguns would effectively be banned in due course. Judge Muller dismissed the argument over microstamping in a footnote, claiming that the plaintiffs hadn’t produced enough evidence to support a finding of ‘imminent disappearance’.

Overall, I’m fairly disgusted with this decision. The purpose of the UHA (as the court acknowledged) is to bar access to affordable and reliable handguns for California residents. I’d love to hear an expert explain how a $550 GLOCK is somehow a cheaply-made “Saturday night special” liable to just “go off” if it’s dropped (or, indeed, how a change of the color of the frame somehow means that the gun needs to undergo additional safety testing as though it’s a new model.)

No, the act is a very calculated effort to restrict rights of Californians that should be protected under the Second Amendment. This is like trying to restrict access to the Internet and high-quality printers to all civilians because some of them might be seditious, and then saying that there’s no burden on the First Amendment here, because everyone can still print up handbills and mail them out to people. We wouldn’t tolerate such an attach on the First Amendment; we shouldn’t tolerate a similar attack on the second. It’s embarrassing to watch Judge Muller try to jump through hoops in her apologia expanding state power at the expense of civil liberties.

In an e-mail to TTAG, the Calguns Foundation has announced that it has directed its counsel to appeal the case to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Perhaps wiser counsels will prevail at that stage.

In the end, this is what happens to a people who disparage their own rights by voting for politicians who are similarly uncaring. The decision wouldn’t have come down this way if Californians hadn’t elected local pols who were anti-gun, nor would this judge in particular have written this decision if President Obama hadn’t appointed her, and if the Senate hadn’t approved her. (And before you GOP’ers start getting all smug about that, recall that she was approved unanimously.) Elections have consequences.

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29 Responses to Federal Court Upholds California Gun Control Law

  1. Law enforcement personnel shoulder a duty to ensure public safety and thus assume different responsibilities, risks, and rights. Well, some animals are more equal than others. So….since Komiefornication has had all their Gun Sense nonsense, has the violent crime rate gone down to create utopian levels.

      • Four legs good, two legs better. Baaaaaaaah. Its the exact same thing as concealed carry laws (and business regulations artificially raising coat of entry), increasing the cost of exercising a right to the point where only the wealthy and well connected can exercise it.

  2. In the mind of the anti-gun justices, they can limit you to one gun and one bullet and your right to keep and bear arms is protected. New York state made the same argument with regards to the SAFE Act. The judge here said that insufficient evidence was provided to show that microstamping would cause all semiautomatic handguns to be banned. Well maybe if all semiautomatic handguns are banned, then such a judge would be more sympathetic and hopefully not just say to use revolvers.

  3. This judge just admitted that the raciest “Saturday night special” gun laws are appropriate for the democrat party and the law in California. And before you bash me, please look up the history and reasons for the Saturday night special laws please.

  4. For those you without law degrees let me translate to you what I think this means…. Judge smacks you in the mouth… Judge then tells you to shut up, and that your argument is invalid because she says so…

    What a joke… This took 6 years to get this decision. Now we Californians will be waiting another 6 years before SCOTUS might hear this. There is little chance the 9th will rule in our favor, unless we get lucky with Republican judges on a small panel.

    “Finally, on microstamping: the plaintiffs argued that since no guns existed using microstamping, ultimately semiautomatic handguns would effectively be banned in due course. Judge Muller dismissed the argument over microstamping in a footnote, claiming that the plaintiffs hadn’t produced enough evidence to support a finding of ‘imminent disappearance’.”

  5. I was born in California, like many others it is unwise to leave because of finances, family, college, and many other reasons. I did not vote for these people and my mother even commented, ” Whoa, who wrote that!” when she saw the words that were purposely thickened by doubling them over and writing them again, written next to Kamala Harris, on last November’s ballet. We in California didn’t choose this, and before you tell us to move maybe you should think about moving away from your job, friends, and family because someone on the internet born in a better State told you to.

    Other thought: Does this mean Colt Single Action Army’s are verboten? Because it is my all time favorite gun and I have seen large amounts of plain, AND engraved examples at our big gunshows. Please tell me that old drop unsafe/ don’t let the hammer rest on a loaded cylinder Peacemakers are exempt and those weren’t all just Ruger Vaqueros I saw.

    • Moving will only stall the metastasis of this liberal way of thinking.

      Look at New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts. Austin Tx. Oregon, Washington.

      It’s spreading, and if we, 2A peoples, don’t come together to fight it, in any and every state, we’re doomed.

      The days of sneering at California should come to an end, it does nothing other than embolden lefty libtard politicians.

    • Good news for you, SA revolvers are exempt from the pistol roster, you can have it anyway you like.

      Although most of gun shops don’t stock much of SA revolvers since a person can only buy ONE pistol for 30 days, most of the people don’t want to block themselves for 30 days for a SA revolver, because they might see their dream guns showed up in other gun shop after they made the purchase and the dream gun simply can’t wait for 30 days on the shelf (strategic stuff, you know, that’s how Californians roll.)

      • 30 days? 30 days 30 DAYS! I forgot about that law. If I’m only allowed 12 handguns a year how the heck am I going to open a firearms museum in my basement? But seriously limiting the amount of products I can buy for my hobby is messed up.

      • It seems like that would be a good point to make. Since SA are exempt from the roster requirements, known unsafe handguns are legal for purchase and the whole law is clearly designed and intended to slowly but surely make it impossible for Californians to buy decent reliable pistols and therefore the law should be thrown away immediately.

  6. We had high hopes for this case, that any sane, reasonable, rational judge would see the Not Unsafe Handgun Roster for what it is, an outrageous encroachment on the rights of California citizens. What we got was a typical California, Obama approved, Kamala Harris approved farce. On to SCOTUS after the 9th confirms this B.S. It is tough being a gun owner in this state.

    • “On to SCOTUS after the 9th confirms this B.S.”

      Unfortunately, the Supreme Court of the United States will almost certainly refuse to hear the case.

      Your recourse: see my comment below about a mass exercise of your 1st Amendment right.

  7. Judge Kimberly Muller of the Eastern District of California (Nominated by President Obama)

    Enough Said….

  8. Plaintiff Vargas needs to slap the twits upside the head with the “American’s With Disabilities Act”.

  9. I was going to say Maryland is worse after I saw the title…but then I read the whole article. At least I can get an ambi-release without having to do it myself.

    On the other hand, MD legis. can still FOA….

    • If the Progressives keep pushing us too far toward tyranny, We The People could very well make that happen.

  10. Mr. Paulsen: I wouldn’t try to get too much mileage out of that “unanimously confirmed” biz, not at the trial-court level. I expect that, failing a child-molesting conviction or some such, pretty much all of the federal trial-court judges are so confirmed, there are just too many of them to get into a contested confirmation match for each one. And besides–what exactly do you wind up saying? Since every single member of the Senate “confirmed” this judge, you might as well not vote because it won’t make any difference?

  11. So the LAPD officers that protected that homeless man by shooting him while he was on the ground have more rights and privileges than me. And if you say “Well the man was reaching/had possession of the officers handgun” well let’s me say “WHO THE XPLETIVE DELETED GETS INTO A WRESTLING MATCH WITH HIS GUN UNHOLSTERED?” Or the other argument I have heard was “He grabbed the officers gun from his holster!” Well to that I say “Was his handgun tucked into a non-approved holster?” Don’t they carry holster that have a the very least one retention feature that prevents someone taking control of your sidearm? NWA said it best “EXPLETIVE DELETED”

  12. “We wouldn’t tolerate such an attach on the First Amendment; we shouldn’t tolerate a similar attack on the second.”

    I agree. So, don’t tolerate it. Get 2% of firearms owners in California to call their representative non-stop for two weeks and quite literally melt down their politician’s phones and overflow their voicemail boxes. And send 10 letters every day demanding that the politicians stop infringing on their rights. Remember, 2% of California firearms owners is about 160,000 people. If each of them sends 10 handwritten letters every day for two weeks, that is 16 million letters that will descend on the California representatives. It would quite literally bury them in mail. And make sure everyone of those 2% also send one letter every day to Governor Brown. Thus Governor Brown’s office would receive 1.6 million letters every day for two weeks.

    This isn’t hard people. Now imagine if 1% of firearms owners throughout the entire United States jumped on board.

    And I haven’t even touched on the “nuclear option” of a having those 2% of firearms owners in California — that’s 160,000 people — descend on Sacramento for a few days of civil rights marches.

  13. I wonder if that judge’s mental gymnastics will be able to save her when people start decorating the lampposts with people like her.

    Funny how such educated people forget history; at the rate it’s going this will all blow up in their faces one day.

  14. “In the end, this is what happens to a people who disparage their own rights by voting for politicians who are similarly uncaring.”

    There ARE no politicians who care about our rights. Both big parties are dedicated to killing rights.

  15. I must have a different definition of “unsafe products” than the people who made this law. To me, a product is unsafe if using it in the intended manner results in unintended damage (e.g. pulling the trigger on a handgun causes the slide to blow off the frame and smash you in the face, or something like that). Lack of drop safeties, or any safeties for that matter, do not make a firearm inherently unsafe, as dropping a firearm is NOT using it in the intended manner. (Note: If your firearm manufacturer DOES recommend that you drop the gun to fire it, you may wish to consider purchasing from a different manufacturer.)

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