Handgun Manufacturing in California – Not a Day at the Beach

Perhaps the most common image of California is southern California, showing off its connection to the Pacific, palm trees, and beautiful sunsets. But, if you think that handgun manufacturing and sales are a day at the beach in southern California, you could be missing the unique and lengthy history of state laws.

The unique approach of California to handguns began years ago and is well-developed.  We touch upon it in this blog because we’ve recently been reviewing California materials in light of the new microstamping requirements.  {You can read more about this our Orchid Advisors “Advisory,” found on-line.}

In California, a “handgun” is defined in CA Penal Code §16640 as “…any pistol, revolver, or firearm capable of being concealed upon the person,” and nothing prevents a handgun from also being deemed a short-barreled rifle or a short-barreled shotgun.  Firearms definitions are generally found at CA Penal Code §§16100, et seq.

The primary provisions pertinent to the manufacture and sale of handguns in California are found in the Penal Code §§31900, et seq.  The goal is to achieve the requirements found in these sections so that the handgun can be listed in California’s “Roster of Handguns Certified for Sale,” an on-line database that is updated daily.  

CA Penal Code §31905 lays out the “firing requirement for hanguns,” a test in which the manufacturer provides three handguns of the make and model for which certification is sought, along with the magazines that will be provided to the retail customer, and a state-certified laboratory runs the handguns through 600 rounds of testing.  The statute sets out the specific steps for discharge testing, along with acceptable failure rates.

The handguns must then meet the “drop safety requirement for handguns” in CA Penal Code §31900, challenged through a series of six different drops, scoring against a requirement that none of the handguns fire the primer during the specified drops.

A semiautomatic pistol not already on the Roster can still be deemed “unsafe” under CA Penal Code §31910 if it fails in other regards, including, effective May 17, 2013, the failure to include mandated microstamping.  This newly effective provision (passed in 2007) requires each semiautomatic pistol to be designed and equipped “…with a microscopic array of characters that identify the make, model, and serial number of the pistol, etched or otherwise imprinted in two or more places on the interior surface or internal working parts of the pistol, and that are transferred by imprinting on each cartridge case when the firearm is fired…”

Even once a handgun is on the CA Roster, the CA Attorney General may retest up to five percent of the handgun models on the CA Roster per annum, pursuant to CA Penal Code §32020.

{You can find all CA Penal Code sections listed in this blog in the Orchid Advisors on-line research library.  Don’t already have a free subscription?  Sign-up today for a free trial through December 31st.}