The state Supreme Court agreed Wednesday to decide whether gun manufacturers have the right to challenge a California law requiring identifying microstamps on bullets fired from semiautomatic pistols, a requirement the manufacturers claim can’t be met with current technology.
A state appeals court had ruled in December that gun groups could present evidence to support their suit seeking to overturn the law, an exception to the usual requirement that statutes can be struck down only if they are unconstitutional.
But the state Supreme Court voted Wednesday to grant a hearing to defenders of the law, which remains in effect while the case is pending. Six of the seven justices, all but Ming Chin, voted to review the appeal by the state’s lawyers.
The law, passed in 2007, requires newly sold semiautomatic handguns to bear microstamping technology in two places that will automatically transfer markings to the casings of every bullet they fire, identifying the gun’s make, model and serial number.
Supporters said the markings would help police trace guns used in crimes. Gun makers said the law would greatly increase their costs and could be evaded by criminals.
The law was drafted to take effect when state officials certified that technology was available to implement it, a certification that occurred in May 2013. Manufacturers represented by the National Shooting Sports Foundation filed suit in 2014, contending it was technologically impossible to effectively microstamp two areas of a gun’s interior.
Fresno County Superior Court Judge Donald Black dismissed the suit in 2015, saying courts can overturn a state law only on constitutional grounds, which the manufacturers were not claiming. A gun maker charged with violating the law might defend itself by arguing compliance was impossible, he said, but any changes in the requirements were up to the Legislature, not the courts.
The Fifth District Court of Appeal in Fresno reinstated the suit in December and said the manufacturers had a right to try to prove that no one could comply with the law
“It would be illogical to uphold a requirement that is currently impossible to accomplish,” Justice Herbert Levy said in the 3-0 ruling.
The state’s high court will decide, after a hearing that has not yet been scheduled, whether to dismiss the suit or allow it to proceed.
By Bob Egelko, Sfgate.com