Smith & Wesson protests California gun law


Smith & Wesson’s display at the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Tradeshow in Las Vegas earlier this month (Julie Jacobson/AP)

One of the nation’s largest gun manufacturers won’t sell its newest firearm in California because of a state law that requires firearms to imprint a unique stamp on bullet casings.

Smith & Wesson said Thursday it would not sell a semiautomatic pistol in California because of the law, signed in 2007 by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) and implemented last year. It’s the second big gun manufacturer to pull some of its products out of California in the last several months.

The gun companies said the law, which requires each firearm to imprint a so-called “microstamp” on bullet casings, impose unbearable cost burdens. The manufacturers also said the microstamps don’t reliably achieve the goal of providing evidence to law enforcement authorities.

In a statement released to the Los Angeles Times, Smith & Wesson CEO James Debney said the law would prevent Californians from having “access to the best products with the latest innovations.”

Only newly designed semiautomatic handguns and updated or modified older models are covered under the 2007 law. The microstamp would leave a tiny etching identifying the make, model and serial number of the weapon that fired a bullet.

Two gun manufacturer organizations filed a lawsuit earlier this month seeking to overturn the law. The lawsuit said the technology is unreliable and that costs to gunmakers are too high.

The law’s implementation was delayed for several years while the state attorney general’s office investigated the microstamping technology. Last year, the state certified that the technology wasn’t subject to patent protections.

Reid Wilson covers state politics and policy for the Washington Post's GovBeat blog. He's a former editor in chief of The Hotline, the premier tip sheet on campaigns and elections, and he's a complete political junkie.
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