In recent months there were some flickering signs of hope for the Ninth Circuit. Shocking everyone, panels for the Ninth issued rulings in two cases which threatened to recognize Supreme Court precedent in Second Amendment cases. The first was when they knocked back California’s ban on large-capacity magazines. Another panel followed that up by supporting the right to open carry in Hawaii. But I suppose they didn’t want you feeling too comfortable because this week they returned to more familiar territory.
As David French noted earlier this week at National Review, the Ninth has jumped back into the crazy gun-banning business by upholding restrictions on the sale of various types of firearms which are nothing short of a slowly growing prohibition on many of the most common weapons. And the bans are cleverly written so they don’t appear to be actual bans at first glance. The case in question deals with California’s Unsafe Handgun Act (Emphasis in original)
Here are the basic facts. California’s Unsafe Handgun Act requires new handguns sold in the state to have three key safety features. First, new guns must have an indicator that shows when a round is loaded in the weapon’s chamber. Second, new guns must have a magazine-detachment mechanism that prevents the gun from discharging when a magazine is not in it. Finally, the third provision “requires new handguns to stamp microscopically the handgun’s make, model, and serial number onto each fired shell casing.”
The Unsafe Handgun Act is just as problematic as it sounds.
For one thing, to quote the majority opinion: “According to the [plaintiffs], no handguns were available in the United States that met the microstamping requirements. The record does not indicate whether and how these figures have changed over time.”
This is one argument in favor of keeping President Trump in a position to continue to appoint judges. This is simply crazy. The technology doesn’t exist to meet these requirements, so this is effectively a ban on guns.
The big problem with this law (and with the court supporting it) is the microstamping requirement. That technology has been in the works for a while, but it’s prohibitively expensive and unreliable in terms of producing legible stamping marks. In other words, the law is not stopping you from purchasing a firearm. They just insist that you restrict your purchases to fictional weapons which do not yet exist. And when you do manage to find one at some future date, you’ll probably need to sell your car to be able to afford it. This is, as French describes it, firearms prohibition which would roll out slowly over time as old weapons leave circulation and people seek to replace them.
That’s not the only problem with the law, however. The requirement for an empty chamber indicator (or loaded chamber indicator if you prefer) is also problematic. This technology at least exists and can consist of designs ranging from complex, expensive internal sensors to a simple piece of brightly colored plastic which the user can insert themselves. The arguments over this technology run the gamut, with some gun owners thinking it’s a great idea and others finding it virtually worthless. No matter which camp you fall into, this is still another piece of excess technology designed to make firearms more expensive and complicated. If you want to use one you should feel free to do so. Mandating them seems excessive and designed to discourage firearm ownership.
The entire idea of making guns unable to fire if the magazine is detached is simply confusing. It’s yet another expensive design change which doesn’t really make the gun any safer. A responsible firearm owner has to know whether there’s a round in the chamber or not. Requirements such as this simply encourage bad safety practices in my opinion, though this one may not rise to the level of the other two requirements in terms of passing constitutional muster.
This latest decision by the Ninth Circuit is, as I see it, yet another reason to continue replacing judges at all levels and getting them confirmed as quickly as possible. Hopefully, the Supreme Court will overrule in this case, particularly after Kavanaugh is seated, but you can’t rely on them taking every case that comes down the pike. They’ve been particularly squeamish about accepting Second Amendment cases since Heller, so many of these questions will continue to be decided by the lower courts. And the Ninth Circuit is just a wretched hive of scum and villainy (happy belated Star Wars Day!) when it comes to gun rights.