Gun manufacturer Smith & Wesson said Thursday it won’t sell some new models of its semiautomatic handguns in California to avoid complying with the state’s new safety requirements.
A California law passed seven years ago and put into effect last May requires gun manufacturers to submit for testing all models of semiautomatic handguns that have been substantially changed since they were previously on the market.
Each pistol must also be microstamped, a marking used on the gun’s bullet casings to identify its make, model and serial number — a step that Massachusetts-based Smith & Wesson said it will not take. The company said microstamping is cost-prohibitive and unreliable as a crime deterrent.
California’s law, the first in the nation of its kind, does not apply to guns sold for military or law enforcement use.
Smith & Wesson said it expects sales of its California-compliant revolvers, which aren't required to have microstamping, to offset the impact to the company.
Elizabeth Sharp, vice president for investor relations at Smith & Wesson, said in an email to Reuters that other firearms makers were also expected to allow products covered under the law to fade out of the market in California as they are upgraded or modified.
Sharp would not release any figures indicating how popular the affected pistols are, or how many are in circulation.
Smith & Wesson President James Dobney said the microstamping requirement, signed by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2007, was "poorly conceived."
Microstamping a gun, meant to make it easier for law enforcement investigators to track down shooters in criminal cases, is an unproven and unreliable method, said Dobney, "and makes it impossible for Californians to have access to the best products with the latest innovations."
Gun rights organizations including the National Rifle Association oppose the law, and the firearms industry trade group, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, is suing to have it overturned.
California has some of the toughest gun control laws in the nation. Last year the state passed legislation aimed at further tightening its firearm regulations, including a ban on so-called conversion kits used to change standard firearms into semiautomatics, capable of firing more than 10 rounds of ammunition without reloading.
Al Jazeera and wire services