gun store handgun display
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California is pulling off a vanishing act right before everyone’s eyes. The list of semi-automatic handguns available for sale there is rapidly dwindling, thanks to the state’s “Not Unsafe Handgun Roster.”

It won’t be too long before all semi-automatic handguns will be banned from sale in California – a step closer to gun control’s ultimate goal of banning lawful civilian firearm ownership. The California “Not Unsafe Handgun” law, enacted in 2001, started a slow motion statewide handgun ban.

The ban picked up momentum in May of 2013 when the 2007 law requiring microstamping on all new pistols became effective upon then-Attorney General Kamala Harris certifying microstamping technology was unencumbered by patent restrictions. There were 967 models available for lawful purchase when the roster was certified less than a decade ago. Today, there are under 250 available models, when different paint schemes are considered.

California Dreaming

California’s lawmakers started the process of denying citizens the ability to purchase modern semiautomatic handguns with legislation introduced in 1999. The law, introduced as SB 15, required that any handgun that is sold in the state, and capable of being concealed, must be tested by a certified laboratory and determined to be “not unsafe.”

The criteria in 2001 was that every handgun had to contain three “safety” features, including an indicator that shows if a cartridge is present in the chamber, a mechanism that prevents a firearm from discharging when the magazine is removed or not present and the third is to incorporate unworkable microstamping technology.

ammunition microstamping
By Microstamper at en.wikipedia, CC BY 2.5, Link

The problem is that microstamping just doesn’t work. Microstamping is the imaginative notion that a firearm would impart an identifying code on the cartridge it expends, primarily from the firing pin on the primer. In theory, this would allow law enforcement to connect spent cartridge cases collected at crime scenes with a particular firearm by matching the identifying code.

In practice, it doesn’t work. The inventor of the technology, Todd Lizotte, who holds the sole-source patent to etch microscopic codes on the face of a firing pin, agreed that the technology wasn’t ready for widespread commercial use.

Lizotte admitted that alphanumeric codes are often illegible under even perfect conditions. Electron microscopes couldn’t detect legible codes in testing. Even in laboratory settings, it would take at least 10 spent cartridges to make an “educated guess” to piece together a legible code. Third-party researchers agreed.

Facts Be Damned

It doesn’t take much to defeat microstamping. The technology can easily be negated with sandpaper or a nail file as the mark is only 25 microns (half the diameter of a human hair). Criminals already obliterate serial numbers etched into a firearm frame.

California lawmakers ignored that, passing another mandate in 2020 that every handgun must incorporate single-placement microstamping. Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law in 2020 that reduced the marking requirement to a single location, but sped up the roster. For every one handgun that would be added, three would come off.

Gavin Newsom
(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

There have been no new models added to the roster since 2013, thanks to this mandate and the state’s interpretation that even minor cosmetic changes constitute a new model requiring microstamping. The list of handguns available for sale, however, has shrunken considerably – by nearly 75 percent. It will only pick up speed. Starting in July, the requirement for three handguns to come off the list goes into effect.

The trifecta of an unworkable requirement, a self-defeating mandate and a shrinking pool of commercially-available firearms means Californians are witnessing a slow motion ban on an entire class of firearms before their very eyes.


Larry Keane is SVP for Government and Public Affairs, Assistant Secretary and General Counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

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  1. Guess they’ll have to walk down the street and negotiate for a hi-point with the local thug!

    • What happens when Gun Control is not defined by its history. Knee jerk politically inept history illiterates flock to Gun Control assuming it is sugar and spice and everything nice when history confirms Gun Control in any shape, matter or form is an agenda rooted in racism and genocide.

      When history illiterates bend over and lay their Second Amendment Right at the feet of Gun Control zealots they might as well remain bent over because those carrying on the agenda of racists and nazis will eventually have their way with their defenseless behinds…History Confirms It.

      • Not really seeing the racism connection here. The politicians in CA clearly want to ban all guns for everyone, regardless of race.

        • Wrong. Law enforcement can buy whatever they want. Security guards for the rich Karens and Kevins writing these laws can also buy what they want.

          These laws keep guns out of the hands of those filthy poors that just won’t join organized crime groups like the bloods, crips, vice lords, ms-13, law enforcement, etc..

          All laws that are directed at the poor disproportionately affect minorities because of the socio-economic realities of this country. Also remember, the law behind NYSRPA v Bruen that will force CA and six other states to move to shall issue is literally a Jim Crow law written to keep those pesky black folk unarmed.

          Ergo, it’s racism from big daddy democrat.

    • The article forgot to mention the two ways you can buy an off roster handgun.
      The first is the law enforcement carve out.
      Police are allowed to buy off roster guns, and they are allowed to sell them to the public.
      When you first moved to the state of California, you are allowed to import your off roster guns.
      These can be sold in a private sale, even though it has to move through an FFL.
      So even when there is zero safe guns on the list, a trickle will still come in

      • The LEO carve out was strictly limited after several officers were arrested for acting as unlicensed gun dealers. If I recall correctly, the new restrictions bar sales to us mere “civilians.”
        Yes, there are exceptions to the Roster, BUT one may not import or sell through an FFL a magazine with a capacity of more than ten rounds, irrespective of the original magazine capacity of the firearm. Magazines must be pinned to ten rounds or discarded.

      • There will always be guns on the roster, as the various safety provisions, other than the safety inspection and testing for new firearms, do not apply to revolvers, used firearms, or C&R firearms.

      • Yes but LEO’s buying and then re-selling selling off roster guns (at huge profit margins also but that’s not relevant) are committing federal felonies. A bunch of LAPD officers were arrested by the feds for straw purchases for doing just that. Google LAPD gun club arrests.

  2. The ‘Magic Phrase’ to look for is “Strict Scrutiny” sometime in the next few weeks.

    Something tells me Justice Thomas is getting tired of the 2A not getting the respect it deserves as a civil right.

    (Or, I picked a bad day to quit main-lining heroin… 🙁 )

    • I have an idea…let’s ban all cars made after 2013 and tell the world it’s for “safety” reasons. Because, you know, Ford and BMW don’t continue to make their newer cars safer or work hard to innovate.

      Logic! [/sarc]

      (+1 for the Airplane reference.
      “Roger, Roger”
      “We need clearance, Clarence.”
      “What’s yer vector, Victor?”)

  3. THIS is what will bring about ‘the wild west’ that the left is constantly complaining about. Everyone will carry revolvers again.

    • Ha! Then CA will require revolvers equipped with a cylinder that automatically ejects the spent, micro-stamped case after each shot. And please don’t even suggest an RFID-enabled case.

      • Better yet they do what they did in Mexico and have only two government controlled gun stores or only allow .22 caliber single shot rifles that must be stored at the range at all times

  4. I’d find a person shot by a cop with one of the “off roster” firearms and sue under the statement ‘if its unsafe for the citizens—then how is it safe for cops to use?’

    simple: use the law against them, by taking their money!

  5. No one in California, including the people trusted to enforce, is enforcing the gun laws in CA. I’ll go so far as to say, with supreme confidence, that if Gavin Newsome owns a firearm, and I suspect strongly that he does, he is not in compliance with the law either.

    Nobody is following these laws anymore. Thats just a fact.

    • Are you saying that FFLs in California’s are selling Handguns not on the roster?

      Are standard capacities magazines being sold?

      I know that Concealed Carry is now mainstream outside of the 4 Biggest Urban Counties.

      • Pretty sure concealed carry is mainstream in those counties too, it just doesn’t show up in the stats.

        See the 5/4 Gun Meme post.

  6. Well the courts have basically said that as long as one handgun remains on their approved list, you still have a 2nd Amendment Right, even if that one pistol retails for $10,000 each. Of course Law Enforcement is exempt and can use “Unsafe Handguns” as they wish. Hopefully some attorney will be smart and use the “Unsafe” Police firearms to suck millions from the stupid California taxpayers, etc.

  7. I wonder if there may be a “silver lining” to this “cloud”:

    At some point there will be no models available for sale in California. That should trigger (pun intended!) a lawsuit that will obviously end up in the 9th Circus (which will issue an en-banc decision upholding California’s de facto restrictions on an entire class of firearms) and then go to the U.S. Supreme Court.

    My hope is that the U.S. Supreme court will strike down bans on firearms made after a certain date and therefore have to also strike down the Hughe’s Amendment which bans the sale of machine guns manufactured after 1986.

    I can dream!

    • The Cali Handgun Roster is a Continuous Gun Ban.

      You don’t need to just dream. There’s actually lawsuits going on in the district courts over there right now.

  8. The “3 on per one on” makes it blatantly obvious they don’t care about “safety”. New products almost invariably have more safety features than old ones. An honest safety fanatic would be more inclined to force replacement of old technology (like cars in Japan).

  9. The only way for a non LEO to have an off-roster handgun is the be a resident of another state, buy the weapon there and move to Ca. As long as the Mag is limited to 10 rounds, it can come in and be legal. And, there is always the used market.

    • What if I have my dad purchase a firearm, then ‘gift’ it to me? It doesn’t even have to be new, doesn’t have to go through an FFL. I just visit Dad, and he gives me a firearm while I’m visiting. How many California laws have I broken by just driving across the state line while possessing an otherwise legal gun?

      • As long as your Dad buys the gun (giving him the money to buy the gun for you is a straw sale), it can legally be shipped to an FFL in California for transfer. This specific transfer (parent to child, child to parent) is exempt. The only limitation is that a 10+ mag cannot be imported. Not only will the FFL refuse to give it to you, mere possession is still a crime.

      • Sorry but you and your dad just committed federal felonies. Federal law since 1968 prohibits the private transfers of firearms between residents of different states. This has been upheld through the interstate commerce clause. You must go through a FFL dealer unless the firearm is part of a lawful bequest of an estate.

  10. I have all the firearms I need and in two years or less I’ll be out of CA. CA is a clear cut case of the total lack of regard or respect for human and civil rights.

    We need a Nuremberg 2.0.

  11. It’s almost like I have to go to another state to get the hand gun I would like to own…
    eerrr did I say that out loud???

    • Too bad that’s a GCA ’68 violation. I wouldn’t screw around with ATF who bend Federal Laws more than Beckham; I don’t care for Federal Pound-Me-In-The-Ass Prison.

    • Have your son/daughter or parent who lives in another state buy it and send it to you. Although it has to be processed through an FFL, these specific intrafamilial transfers are exempt from California requirements except for the mag limit.

  12. Question is, will there be anyone still living in CA when the last pistol is banned.

    Besides illegal immigrants, that is.

  13. It’s time to stop the gun takers. Next thing you know they will want us to be only able to carry a single shot flintlock pistol.

  14. Don’t comply. This is totally Unconstitutional. No surprise that bitch kamala has her fingerprints all over this.

    • how, exactly, would one go about not complying? if an FFL tries to sell an off roster gun to an non exempt person they will lose their license immediately and get shut down. why is that a good outcome?

  15. That was the plan all along, Will no one fight against it? The Firearm and ammo companies should stand up an ban sales to LEO’s in the state to protest but will they? no.

  16. The microstamping law was added in 2007, not 2001. The 2001 law added a manual safety other than a trigger or backstrap safety. The 2020 law reducing the number of locations for stamping the case from 2 to 1 and requiring removal of three guns for each one added was enacted in 2020, but has been challenged in a case still pending in the federal district court. In ruling on a motion to dismiss, the Court commented without deciding that plaintiffs had made out a judiciable claim that the requirement of eliminating three guns for every one added did not pass even intermediate scrutiny.

    Another aspect of California law not mentioned is that California broadened the definition of “new” to include firearms where parts were replaced with identical parts manufactured in a different fashion. The primary reason new Colt 1911s are not sold here is that Colt moved to modern CNC milling, and California determined that because of the new manufacturing technique, all 1911s so produced by Colt were “new” models and could not be sold absent compliance with the microstamping mandate.

    One final point: the inventor of the only existing and experimental microstamping technique waived his patent so as to make the technology “generally available” to the industry. With that waiver, the AG Kamala Harris declared that the preconditions to the microstamp law taking effect had been met–even though that technology only stamped the case in one place, not two, as the statute then required.

  17. Why would CA be limiting the right of their resident women to choose like this?

  18. The voting population of the state of California does not care about civil rights.
    All they care about is drug legalization and their legalized sexual liberation. Those two segments have always supported gun control in the state. And those two segments have tremendous political power in California.

    Those two segments don’t believe in private property rights. Except for rich people. The next time you support a bill legalizing drugs or sex acts, you should really read the bill before you support and vote for it.

    Since you essentially you made it legal to steal, by raising the limit of a misdemeanor up to $950. The next time you vote you might legalize adult sex with 8 year olds. If you don’t read the bill first, the next time, you go to vote.

    • The mental gymnastics you have to take to arrive at these conclusions. Sex acts are none of the Governments business along with what you choose to put into your body. You love being told what to do more than Democrats by Government, it’s extremely ironic.

      • It’s people like you that called for single mothers to be prosecuted when they had a man in their house while being on welfare. Your hypocrisy shows you really don’t mean what you say. You like the government in other people’s bedrooms. Just not your own.

        And you want the government to pay for your drugs. And pay for your drug rehab. So no you don’t believe in Liberty. Because you don’t believe in personal responsibility, and the consequences that go with it.

        • Damn right I do call for the prosecution of a “single mother while having a man in the house”, especially if the POS is working. Speaking of hypocrisy! There are criteria for receiving welfare. The bedroom hasn’t a darn thing do to with it.

          Liberty does not mean being a sponge on the rest of us.

  19. There is a simple solution to stopping these anti-gun laws.
    Get a judge (preferably the Supreme Court) to rule that Federal, state, and local governments must stop exempting themselves (including the police force) from all gun control laws.

    The minute that states are no longer allowed to exempt the government (including police) from gun control laws, you’ll instantly see an end to all the “high capacity” magazine bans, “assault weapons” bans, microstamping requirements, and so-called “safety” features that make guns less reliable (and therefore more dangerous) including magazine disconnect safeties, loaded chamber indicators (LCI), and the soon-to-be-mandated in New Jersey “smart gun” technology that is even more unworkable than microstamping!

    Heck, you might even see an end to NFA tax stamp requirements (and statewide bans) for suppressors, SBRs, SBS’s, full-auto, and other NFA items if the government found out they could no longer allow police to use them unless John Q. Public could also use them. Any weapons the police are allowed to have, law-abiding citizens should also be allowed to have.

    • Never going to happen, everyone loves the Kings Men to much. Especially you so called Conservatives. Katrina should of taught you they can and will come for your guns and guess who they are sending?

      • To answer your question.
        If you’re out of California. They will send California police officers to your state to confiscate your guns. They’ll be following the orders of the corrupt and tyrannical drug legalization crowd. And the corrupt and tyrannical legalized sexual liberation movement. Because they know if the local police are involved the residents know where those local police officers live.

        “Assaulted: Civil Rights Under Fire,” First-Look at the Pro-Gun Documentary. video less than 2 min long

  20. Is there a particular reason manufacterers can’t just include useless, illegible microstamping for California guns and call it a day? “Oh well, your problem if it doesn’t really work, you told us to do it”?

    • this is actually a very good question for the manufacturers that i have not heard asked before

  21. So the roster does have a “curio & relic” “LOOPHOLE”. If you want that VP9 OR you just have to wait 50 years then it can be shipped into the state. But I’m sure CA will pass another law to “fix” that too before 50 years have passed.

  22. “One of the notable aspects of the democratic process is that one need not know anything about a subject in order to pass laws about it.” – the late Col Jeff Cooper.

    “That is why our masters in Washington are so anxious to disarm us. They are not afraid of criminals. They are afraid of a populace which cannot be subdued by tyrants. ” – Jeff again.

    Have you Kommifornians shot any of those politicians yet?? NO?? Ah Ha….they don’t fear You The Little Peeps….here’s your problem. Problem defined…..first step to solution. You’re welcome. Class dismissed.

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