Sunday, March 15, 2009

SB 697 - Smart Handguns Required for Sale in California

SB 697, introduced by Senator Mark DeSaulnier really throws down the gauntlet: it requires that at some point in the future, only handguns that recognize the authorized owner, and fail to operate for anyone else, may be submitted to the state for safety certification.

This bill is a retread: it was introduced in the prior session by then Assemblyman DeSaulnier. It passed the Assembly, but not in the Senate. Now a State Senator, DeSualnier has introduced

As California gun owners know, only handguns approved by the state may be sold in the state. This bill adds a requirement that all new handguns use this new technology.

Here is the relevant portion of the bill:

(4) Commencing 18 months following the release of a report by the
Attorney General to the Legislature and the Governor reporting that
owner-authorized handguns are available for retail sale, pursuant to
Section 12134, no handgun may be submitted for testing pursuant to
this chapter if it is not an owner-authorized handgun as defined in
Section 12126.
And what exactly is an "owner-authorized handgun? This is defined in Section 12126 as follows:

(8) Commencing 18 months following the release of a report by the
Attorney General to the Legislature and the Governor reporting that
owner-authorized handguns are available for retail sale, pursuant to
Section 12134, it is not an owner-authorized handgun, provided,
however, that this paragraph shall not apply to the sale, loan, or
transfer of a pistol manufactured in or imported into this state
prior to that date.

(c) In addition to complying with the provisions of subdivisions
(a) and (b), as applicable, owner-authorized handguns shall comply
with the following performance standards:

(1) The firearm shall not fail to recognize the authorized user,
and shall not falsely recognize an unauthorized user, more than one
time per thousand recognition attempts.

(2) The time from first contact to use recognition and firearm
enablement shall be no more than 0.5 seconds.

(3) The time from loss of contact with the authorized user to
firearm disablement shall be no more than 0.5 seconds.

(4) When the firearm is enabled, the "ready" condition shall be
indicated by a visible indicator.

(5) If the firearm is battery operated, the firearm shall be
equipped with a "low power" indicator that emits an audible signal.

(6) If the user is not recognized, or if the power supply fails,
the firearm shall be inoperable.

(7) Enabling authorized user information shall be stored in the
firearm as permanent memory that is restored when power is restored.

(8) The firearm shall be capable of use by more than one
authorized user and, if the firearm uses hand recognition technology,
it shall recognize either of the authorized user's hands.


So, what are the effects of all of this if is becomes law?

First, eighteen months after some date in the future when the Attorney General decides that the technology is mature enough, all new handguns for sale in California must be able to identify the authorized owner. If a handgun maker does not wish to make such weapons, or if there are only a few manufacturers, tough.

Second, all handguns on the DOJ list prior to that date will still be able to be sold in the state. But handguns, like other products, are not for sale forever, and all handguns must be retested periodically. Some manufacturers may not keep the old models in production forever.

Third, this law may very well pass Constitutional muster as "reasonable regulation" and defy attempts to overturn it on Second Amendment grounds, presuming incorporation happens prior to the effective date of the regulation.

How likely is this to actually happen? Probably not real soon. The National Academies Press published "Owner-Authorized Handguns: A Workshop Summary" in 2003 that summarizes the state of the technology. It is in the preliminary research stage, with no estimate as to when it might be introduced into actual products.

But that may not prevent this bill from becoming law, or if it does, from the State of California to decide on its own that the requirement should go into effect. Remember, this state does not like guns.

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