Though signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2007, the law couldn't take effect as it was supposed to in 2010 because of patents on the technology, including at least one that had been bought up by a gun rights group to delay the law's implementation.
On Friday, Attorney General Kamala Harris officially certified and announced that patents were no longer an issue. Former state Assemblyman Mike Feuer, who authored the law, hailed it as a "monumental day for law enforcement" and said it was the first such law to go into effect in the nation. Other states, notably New York, have looked at such a law, but have had troubles getting it passed.
"This very important technology will help us as law enforcement in identifying and locating people who improperly and illegally use and discharge firearms," Harris said.
The law doesn't impact the more than 1,200 guns already on the state's official firearm roster. Only new or modified semi-automatic handguns sold in California must be equipped with the technology that "microstamps" a bullet casing with a code identifying a gun's make, model and serial number whenever the gun is fired.
New guns are not often added to the roster and one is not expected this year, said Lynda Gledhill, a spokeswoman for the Attorney General's Office.
Gun rights groups argued that the law was an effective ban on new guns because of the burdens it places on manufacturers.
"Manufactures are not going to create a special run of firearms with all of these very burdensome manufacturing technologies just so they can comply and produce firearms for one market," said Brandon Combs, executive director of the Calguns Foundation, a gun rights group based in San Carlos, Calif.
The Calguns Foundation extended a patent by paying a $555 fee, Combs said. He said the group was planning to conduct an "audit" of the state Department of Justice to determine whether the patents were truly "unencumbered." The group has challenged requirements of the state's handgun roster as unconstitutional in a federal court filing.
Feuer, who is running for LA city attorney, said the law would likely extend to other states which had been "looking to California to see if our law goes into effect."
About 40 percent of California's homicides are unsolved each year, most of which involve guns, Feuer said, but "we can do something to change that."
Tami Abdollah can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/latams