What is the California Handgun "Roster" (Cal. Penal Code sec. 31900, et seq.) and how big is it, really?
The "Roster of Handguns Certified for Sale" is a list of handguns on the Cal. Dept. of Justice's website that can be manufactured in California, imported, sold, purchased, lent, etc. In other words, the DOJ largely controls what handguns are legally obtainable. Officially, the government says it is not restricting a person's ability to purchase a handgun because there are hundreds of such models on its Roster.
However, even a cursory examination of the Roster shows many of these handguns are actually duplicates. In other words, the number of handguns the DOJ says are "certified for sale" is not the actual number of unique firearms Californians can choose from. This begs the question: "How many unique handguns are actually on the Roster that people can choose from?"
In order to answer this question, we undertook a survey of the Roster and related data to understand the actual marketplace of available makes and models from which law-abiding California residents could "choose" from when purchasing a new firearm at a licensed dealer.
Source data & files
1) California Roster "De-Certified Handgun Models" (.pdf file) - Cal. Dept. of Justice, online at https://oag.ca.gov/sites/oag.ca.gov/files/pdfs/firearms/removed.pdf (data as of and last retrieved January 30, 2019)
Based on our survey (see sections entitled Note and Methodology, below), we found that California's Handgun Roster is comprised of the following (as of January 30, 2019):
- 27 listings for "derringer" type handguns
- 268 listings for "revolver" type handguns
- 468 listings for "pistol" type handguns
- In sum, there were 763 total listings for all handgun types
- Only 9 of the 27 listings for "derringer" type handguns were found to be materially unique
- Only 214 of the 268 listings for "revolver" type handguns were found to be materially unique
- Only 305 of the 468 listings for "pistol" type handguns were found to be materially unique
- In sum, only 528 of the 768 total listings for all handgun types were found to be materially unique
Thus, about one-third of the Roster's total listings are comprised of makes and models that do not offer consumers substantive and material choices in the physical attributes, function, or performance of a handgun relative to another listing (i.e., a base model).
Also discovered in the survey is that approximately 1,439 handguns have been "de-certified" to date -- about twice the number of total handguns available on the Roster today -- and thus removed from the marketplace.
The date for this survey and our analysis is January 30, 2019. The California Dept. of Justice's Bureau of Firearms updates the Roster from time to time, so these numbers are subject to change.
In reviewing the Roster data and its listings of handguns models, we used the following factors to consider a listing as a materially "unique" handgun from other listings: 1) frame materials; 2) caliber/chambering; 3) barrel length; and 4) other substantial physical attributes described in the Roster. Our review classified a listing as not unique if it differed from another listing only by non-substantive or purely aesthetic factors (i.e., accent colors; grip material; sights).
Last updated: January 30, 2019