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Smith & Wesson Plans Slow Exit From California Semi-Auto Handgun Market

January 24, 2014 by  

Smith & Wesson Plans Slow Exit From California Semi-Auto Handgun Market
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Smith & Wesson announced Wednesday it will no longer sell its popular range of M&P (military and police) handguns in California, thanks to new gun-identifying regulations that are driving up manufacturing costs in the State while forcing more American citizens onto a registry that allows the government to keep track of their firearms.

The company released a statement Thursday criticizing California’s Unsafe Handgun Act, which forces companies to begin “microstamping” each newly made weapon’s firing pin with a unique identifying marker that, at least in theory, can serve as a “fingerprint” to match spent shell casings with the gun from which they are fired.

Smith & Wesson also pledged to end civilian sales of its M&P line of pistols (with one exception) by August of this year, as the company allows its lineup of semi-automatic handguns to fall off the California roster of “approved” firearms. As The Truth About Guns observed, though, the company made no mention of whether it will continue to sell the same guns to California police departments. The law expressly exempts the police from having to carry handguns that can be traced through microstamping. Think about the implications of that for a second.

The press release is lengthy, but here are the highlights:

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (January 23, 2014) — Smith & Wesson Corp. announced today that although it continually seeks ways to refine and improve its firearms so that consumers have access to the best possible products, the State of California is making that impossible when it comes to California residents.

Under California’s “Unsafe Handgun Act,” any new semi-automatic pistol introduced into that state must comply with microstamping laws. In addition, California asserts that anything other than a cosmetic change to a handgun already on the California Roster of Handguns Certified for Sale, including performance enhancements and other improvements, requires it to be removed from the roster and retested. For semi-automatic pistols, this means it must comply with the microstamping requirements, as well.

Smith & Wesson does not and will not include microstamping in its firearms. A number of studies have indicated that microstamping is unreliable, serves no safety purpose, is cost prohibitive and, most importantly, is not proven to aid in preventing or solving crimes. The microstamping mandate and the company’s unwillingness to adopt this so-called technology will result in a diminishing number of Smith & Wesson semi-automatic pistols available for purchase by California residents.

This is not a problem unique to Smith & Wesson. The microstamping legislation and California’s position regarding performance enhancements and other improvements creates the same challenge for all firearm manufacturers, since presumably all of them refine and improve their products over time.

…James Debney, Smith & Wesson President & CEO, said, “As our products fall off the roster due to California’s interpretation of the Unsafe Handgun Act, we will continue to work with the NRA and the NSSF to oppose this poorly conceived law which mandates the unproven and unreliable concept of microstamping and makes it impossible for Californians to have access to the best products with the latest innovations. At the same time, we will do our best to support our customers in California with state-compliant products, enabling them access to at least a portion of the firearms to which we believe all citizens are entitled. In these challenging times, we hope you will support Smith & Wesson, and all gun manufacturers, in our fight to make the Unsafe Handgun Act about safety. We also encourage you to support the NSSF’s lawsuit and other efforts to stop microstamping, before it impacts your Constitutional rights.”

The “lawsuit” refers to the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s (NSSF) filing of a suit against the State of California earlier this month on behalf of gun manufacturers challenging the validity of microstamping.

Smith & Wesson joins Sturm, Ruger as the second firearms maker this month to announce a slow exit from the California handgun market through legal attrition.

Ben Bullard

Reconciling the concept of individual sovereignty with conscientious participation in the modern American political process is a continuing preoccupation for staff writer Ben Bullard. A former community newspaper writer, Bullard has closely observed the manner in which well-meaning small-town politicians and policy makers often accept, unthinkingly, their increasingly marginal role in shaping the quality of their own lives, as well as those of the people whom they serve. He argues that American public policy is plagued by inscrutable and corrupt motives on a national scale, a fundamental problem which individuals, families and communities must strive to solve. This, he argues, can be achieved only as Americans rediscover the principal role each citizen plays in enriching the welfare of our Republic.

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