FRESNO – The 5th Circuit Court has left its mark on a law requiring new handguns sold in California to be microstamped with two different markings.

On Dec. 1, according to an article on, the court reversed and remanded a lower-court ruling that rejected a challenge to California law AB 1471, known as the Crime Gun Identification Act. AB 1471 requires gun manufacturers to double-mark semiautomatic pistols with a microscopic array of characters that would identify the weapon and imprint on inserted cartridges when it was fired.

AB 1471, which was passed in 2007 and went into effect in 2014, was challenged by the National Shooting Sports Foundation and the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers Institute on the grounds that the microstamping was easily circumvented on the firing pin and technologically unfeasible elsewhere on the firearm.

“We opposed the legislation when it was being considered because we knew from our research that the microstamping can be defeated easily by replacing the firing pin or using a nail file to remove the markings,” Lawrence Keane, assistant secretary and general counsel for the NSSF, told the Northern California Record. “And the marks cannot not be consistently pressed onto the cartridge in a reliable fashion.”

In his ruling, 5th Circuit Judge Herbert Levy said that if what the law required was technologically impossible, then it is unreasonable to make it a requirement.

“It would be the same result if the Legislature passed a law saying that all new vehicles were required to levitate,” Keane said. “Which is not something we can make them do, just as we are not able to create firearms capable of double microstamping.”

Keane said that the court's decision means that firearm makers have a chance to prove in court that what the law requires is impossible.

“This is an opportunity to set an important precedent not just for the gun industry, but any organization that creates products that are subject to regulations,” he said.

According to Keane, the law has had a drastic effect on California's gun industry. Since the law requires that any new handgun introduces in California is required to include the microstamping, no new handguns have been legally sold in the state since 2013.

“For the law's purposes, any change – even altering the size or material used in a spring – would cause the firearm to be considered a new handgun,” Keane said. “This has made it impossible to introduce new handguns for sale in the state.”

Keane went on to say that he and the NSSF believe that this was part of the law's intent from the beginning – to create a slow-motion ban to prevent new handguns from entering California.

“Several new handgun models that are for sale in every other part of the United States are not available in California,” he said. “And under federal law, a resident of California cannot purchase a handgun outside of the state. This prevents residents from being able to exercise their constitutional rights guaranteed under the Second Amendment.”

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