Susan Jones | Senior Editor | Wednesday, February 13, 2008
The National Crime Gun Identification Act, introduced in both the House and Senate on Feb. 7, "will help law enforcement track down armed criminals and solve gun murders," the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence said.
The National Rifle Association calls such legislation "incremental gun control."
Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign, said microstamping will help police trace guns that are used in crimes. It's "the common sense thing to do," Helmke said in a news release on Monday.
"Last year, California passed a bill to take advantage of this new microstamping technology. Governor Schwarzenegger signed that legislation into law. I want to commend Senator Kennedy and Congressman Becerra for introducing these bills to put this technology to work nationwide," Helmke said.
California's microstamping law, which is supposed to take effect in 2010, would require all semiautomatic pistols to have "microstamped identifiers" -- tiny internal markings that transfer themselves onto bullet cartridges fired from a gun.
In theory, microstamped cartridges found at crime scenes might help police identify the make, model and serial number of the gun used in the crime -- and perhaps trace the criminal who used it as well.
At least one gun manufacturer, STI International, stopped selling firearms in California as soon as Gov. Schwarzenegger signed the state's microstamping bill into law.
"We will be suspending all shipments of guns to California effective October 13, 2007. This includes everyone from civilians to Law Enforcement," STI says on its Web site.
Sen. Kennedy said his bill would amend federal law by prohibiting licensed federal firearms dealers from manufacturing, importing, or transferring certain semi-automatic pistols that are not capable of microstamping ammunition.
According to Rep. Becerra, "Gun microstamping is a simple and effective technology that promises to save lives and keep violent criminals off the streets. It is inexpensive for gun manufacturers to implement, does not infringe on personal ownership rights, and provides a powerful investigative tool to our law enforcement officers."
But the National Rifle Association's Institute for Legislative Action has outlined the "numerous and varied problems" associated with microstamping.
Microstamping has repeatedly failed in tests, the NRA-ILA says. Moreover, the microstamped etchings are easily removed or altered.
Beyond the technological questions, the NRA says most gun crimes do not require micro-stamping to be solved; and most criminals who use guns don't get them through legal channels.
In fact, the NRA-ILA warns that micro-stamping may increase gun thefts, home invasions and other burglaries, since criminals would rather steal guns than buy them legally and thus leave a trail in a microstamp database.
The NRA-ILA says many guns do not automatically eject fired cartridge cases. And given the fact that there are some 250 million guns in the U.S. already, only a small percentage of guns will be micro-stamped if the law is passed.
Micro-stamping wastes money, including that which is better spent on traditional crime-fighting and crime-solving efforts, the NRA-ILA said.
And finally, the NRA-ILA mentioned the costs associated with microstamping that will be passed along to gun buyers.
A database to track micro-stamped handguns will be expensive, the group said; and the handgun manufacturing process will have to be redesigned to accommodate microstamping. And then there are the anticipated licensing fees that would have to be paid to the sole-source micro-stamping patent holder.
"Mandating microstamping will dramatically reduce the product selection available to law-abiding consumers in California and prices for available guns will skyrocket," the National Shooting Sports Foundation says on its Web site.
See Earlier Story:
Schwarzenegger Sides With Gun-Control Advocates (Oct. 15, 2007)