Anti-gun politicians in the U.S. Congress have proposed two gun control measures in recent weeks.
One, dubbed the Make Identifiable Criminal Rounds Obvious (MICRO) Act, was introduced last month and would require pistols be capable of stamping identifying characters onto ammunition at firing.
The second proposal has yet to be officially introduced but was advanced on Twitter by Democratic Senator Kamala Harris:
It’s long past time we renew the assault weapons ban in this country. It is in the best interest of keeping all of us safe.
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) August 10, 2017
Harris hasn’t indicated whether a renewed “assault weapons” ban is actually in the works, but she appears to be interested in reviving the conversation despite Republican control of both chambers of Congress.
There is no evidence that the Clinton-era “assault weapons” ban had a positive effect on crime, and only about 2 percent of homicides are committed with rifles of any sort. Harris may not be able to convince many of her colleagues that a renewed ban is worth the political capital necessary for the proposal to gain traction.
The MICRO Act could present a more legitimate threat to gun rights in the U.S. The technology required by the bill imprints a microscopic array of characters onto ammunition that identify the make, model, and serial number of the pistol. The characters are etched onto the pistol’s breech face and firing pin, which transfer the characters onto the primer and case when a round is fired.
In theory, microstamping would allow law enforcement to more easily identify and trace weapons used in crime.
“We must do everything we can to ensure gun violence can be investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” said the bill’s author, U.S. Rep. Anthony Brown, D-Md., in a statement. “Microstamping offers law enforcement the chance to track bullet casings to the source of the crime, and is one more step we can take to ensure the safety of the American people.”
But microstamping is less straightforward than Rep. Brown would have his constituents believe.
California introduced the first microstamping requirement in 2007, but the technology was far from ready to be implemented. In 2013 then-California Attorney General Kamala Harris determined the technology had cleared the necessary hurdles, and the law went into effect.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) and the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute (SAAMI) disagreed. The groups filed a lawsuit in 2014, which is currently being considered by the California Supreme Court.
“There is no existing microstamping technology that will reliably, consistently and legibly imprint the required identifying information by a semiautomatic handgun on the ammunition it fires. The holder of the patent for this technology himself has written that there are problems with it and that further study is warranted before it is mandated. A National Academy of Science review, forensic firearms examiners and a University of California at Davis study reached the same conclusion and the technical experts in the firearms industry agree,” said Lawrence G. Keane, NSSF senior vice president and general counsel.
“Manufacturers can not comply with a law the provisions of which are invalid, that cannot be enforced and that will not contribute to improving public safety,” he continued. “As a result, we are seeking both declaratory and injunctive relief against this back-door attempt to prevent the sale of new semiautomatic handguns to law-abiding citizens in California.”
Since California’s law was implemented the number of approved guns on the state’s handgun roster has been nearly cut in half. A national law would no doubt have an equally damaging effect on the firearms industry.