Lance Selfridge, Dan DeCarlo Revive Challenge to Calif. Law

Los Angeles Partners Lance Selfridge and Daniel DeCarlo recently convinced a California appellate court to reverse an order dismissing a declaratory relief lawsuit brought on behalf of two firearm trade associations challenging a California law.

The law — Penal Code Section 31910, Subdivision (b)(7)(A) — requires all semi-automatic pistols sold in California to be imprinted in two places with a microscopic array of characters that identify the make, model, and serial number of the pistol and that will transfer to the cartridge case upon firing.

The trade associations alleged in their complaint that, while it is sometimes possible to transfer a microstamp from a pistol's firing pin to the cartridge case, it is impossible to transfer a microstamp to the cartridge case from any other internal surface or part of a semi-automatic pistol.

The trial court had granted the state of California's motion for judgment on the pleadings without leave to amend on the primary ground that it would violate the separation of powers doctrine to enjoin the enforcement of a statute on a non-constitutional ground such as impossibility of compliance.

In a published opinion, a California Court of Appeal held that the judiciary may indeed enjoin the enforcement of a statute on non-constitutional grounds if the statute is subject to the proscription of another statute. In the instant suit, the appellate court found that the section of the penal code at issue is subject to the proscription of Civil Code Section 3531, which provides that the law never requires any impossibilities.

Moreover, the Court of Appeal rejected the state's argument that stamping the characters on two places of the firing pin would comply with the statute, holding that only one of the microstamps may be on the firing pin. The court reversed the judgment and remanded the suit for further proceedings.

Since the state has not been able to produce any scientific evidence that a microstamp will transfer to the cartridge case from any internal surface or part of a semi-automatic pistol other than the firing pin, the future progress of this case on remand appears very hopeful for the trade associations.

Read the opinion.

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