Microstamping

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Microstamping is a ballistics identification technology. Microscopic markings are engraved onto the tip of the firing pin and onto the breech face of a firearm with a laser. When the gun is fired, these etchings are transferred to the primer by the firing pin and to the cartridge case head by the breech face, using the pressure created when a round is fired. After being fired, if the cases are recovered by police, the microscopic markings imprinted on the cartridges can then be examined by forensic ballistics experts to help trace the firearm to the last registered owner.[1] A California law requiring the use of microstamping technology in all new semiautomatic firearms sold in the state has attracted controversy.[2][3]

Legal jurisdictions in the United States[edit]

California[edit]

Microstamping legislation was passed in California AB 1471 and signed into law on October 14, 2007, but specifically exempts law enforcement.[4] The law has generated controversy.[2][3]

This technology was to be required in California starting in 2010, however, it is on hold and law enforcement is specifically exempt.[4] One group, the Calguns Foundation, paid a $555 fee to keep the patent active in order to delay implementation.[5] On May 17, 2013, California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced that micro-stamping had cleared all technological and patenting hurdles and would be required on newly sold semiautomatics, effective immediately. However, handguns already approved for sale but lacking this technology may still be sold as long as they remain on the Roster of Safe Handguns.[6]

In January 2014, the two largest handgun manufacturers in the U.S., Smith & Wesson and Sturm, Ruger & Co., announced their intent to stop selling new semi-automatic handguns in California. They cited the microstamping law as their reason.[7]

Two trade groups, the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) and the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers Institute (SAAMI), have filed a lawsuit seeking both declaratory and injunctive relief against what the groups perceive as an attempt to ban semi-automatic handguns in the state.[8] In February 2015 a federal judge upheld the microstamping requirement, ruling that it does not violate the Second Amendment.[9]

Other jurisdictions[edit]

Similar legislation is under consideration in New York,[10] Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maryland, Wisconsin, and Illinois.

Federal bill H.R.5266, the National Crime Gun Identification Act of 2008, was written by House Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA).[11] Senator Edward Kennedy (MA) introduced an identical companion bill in the Senate.[12]

Objections[edit]

The SAAMI trade group raises these objections:

  • Unscrupulous individuals could collect discarded brass from a firing range and salt crime scenes with microstamped cases, thereby providing false evidence against innocent people and increasing the workload for investigators.[13]
  • Firing a large number of rounds will wear down the microstamp.[13]
  • Microstamping is an immature, sole source technology, and has not been subjected to sufficient independent testing. Transfer of microstamped marks to the cases is less reliable than proponents claim.[13]
  • High costs for testing the efficacy of the technique must be passed on to customers, increasing the cost of firearms for those who obtain them legally.[13]
  • Guns manufactured before an effective date are exempt and the bill does not extend to guns outside of California. There's no possibility that this bill would ever cover enough guns to provide the investigative advantage claimed for it by the proponents.[13]

Specific to California, the chief of the Oakland Police Department says:

  • Firearms sold to law-enforcement are exempt. Problems could arise if a police officer's firearm is used in a crime or stolen, and the fact that a firearm is "unsafe" if not provided with stamping technology exposes the police to liability.[14]

Most firearms used in crime are stolen or purchased in the secondary market.[15]

Manufacturer[edit]

The proprietary technology was invented and patented by Todd Lizotte and is presently owned by a company he founded called NanoMark, a division of ID Dynamics of Seattle, Washington.[16] They are the only company from which this technology can be purchased.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Cracking the Case: The Crime Solving Promise of Ballistics Identification." Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence Report on Microstamping, 2004. Report
  2. ^ a b "Smith & Wesson says it won't follow California 'microstamping' law". Retrieved 24 January 2014. Gun manufacturer Smith & Wesson refused Thursday to comply with California's controversial "microstamping" law, causing more of its products to fall off the state's permissible firearms list and be ineligible for sale. 
  3. ^ a b Page, Douglas. "Microstamping Calls the Shot: A Revolutionary Gun Identification Technology Finds Favor and Foes". National Crime Justice Reference Service. Retrieved 21 September 2010. 
  4. ^ a b Cal. P.C. § 12125(b)(4)
  5. ^ [1] Method to track firearm use stalled by foes Erica Goode, New York Times Bend Bulletin June 13, 2012
  6. ^ http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Gun-control-Cartridge-ID-law-to-take-effect-4527165.php
  7. ^ "Smith & Wesson says it won't follow California 'microstamping' law". Retrieved 24 January 2014. 
  8. ^ Staff (April 2014). "ILA report: California's Most Ambitious Handgun Ban Now Underway". American Rifleman 162 (4): 96. 
  9. ^ Pettersson, Edvard (February 27, 2015). "California Cartridge-Microstamp Law Upheld in Gun Group Loss", Bloomberg Business. Retrieved February 28, 2015.
  10. ^ Albany Times Union
  11. ^ http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c110:H.R.5266.IH:
  12. ^ http://becerra.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=275&Itemid=47
  13. ^ a b c d e SAAMI. "AB 352 Defines As "Unsafe" Any Semi-Automatic Pistol Not Microstamped". Archived from the original on 2007-07-06. Retrieved 2007-11-26. 
  14. ^ Mike Feuer. "City of Oakland Bill Analysis" (PDF). Retrieved 2007-11-27. 
  15. ^ Jefferey A. Roth. "Firearms and Violence". ncjrs.gov. Retrieved 10 December 2014. 
  16. ^ Page, Douglas (January 1, 2008). "Microstamping calls the shots: a revolutionary gun identification technology finds favor and foes.". Law Enforcement Technology  – via HighBeam Research (subscription required). Retrieved 22 May 2014. 

Additional resources[edit]