California state lawmakers are hoping a new bill will finally force gun makers to implement “microstamping” technology on all new firearms.
The legislation would require all state, county, and city law enforcement officers to use firearms equipped with microstamping technology if they are purchased after July 1, 2023. Lawmakers are hoping the legislation will compel firearm manufacturers to implement the new technology in order to compete for state law enforcement contracts.
“We’re going to create a market for microstamp guns. There are 86,000 active law enforcement officers in the state of California. Folks are going to want to sell to them, want to be able to compete in that market,” Democratic Assemblyman Jesse Gabriel told the Associated Press. “This is technology that benefits law enforcement, that is going to help them in their investigations.”
California passed a law in 2007 requiring all new handgun models to be equipped with microstamping technology. But gun makers, knowing the cost and inefficacy associated with microstamping, have simply refused to introduce new firearm models into the state. Californians can still purchase new firearms, but residents have not had access to any new models since 2013.
Gabriel and his fellow anti-gun lawmakers believe gun manufacturers are simply being obstinate, and they’re hoping this new bill will force them to adopt the technology.
“For too long, gun manufacturers have prioritized ideology over safety and fought commonsense efforts to incorporate microstamping technology into new firearms,” Gabriel said in a press release. “Our legislation will allow California to use its market power to overcome this obstinance and dramatically expand the use of this important technology.”
Much like “smart gun” technology, microstamping has been touted by anti-gun politicians without any regard for feasibility or efficacy.
The most frequently cited form of microstamping etches a microscopic set of figures onto a gun’s firing pin, which transfers those characters onto the primer of a cartridge. In theory, forensic experts could look at that primer under a microscope and link that cartridge to a particular handgun.
The technology is far from perfect. This study from the University of Iowa concluded that “it is not a perfect technology, even on optimized weapons.” High percentages of primers are totally unreadable, depending on the firearm used, and lacquered ammunition is always unreadable.
In addition, as the Mark Oliva of the National Shooting Sports Foundation told the Associated Press, criminals can quickly and easily file off the microscopic characters on the end of a firing pin, and the characters wear off over time.
“It sounds great on paper but … it doesn’t hold up. All it does is infringe on the rights of law-abiding citizens and make firearms unavailable to them,” Oliva said. “I don’t see how this would help to solve crime or resolve criminal misuse of firearms.”
For their part, gun makers have held that the technology is impossible to implement into their manufacturing process.
“Microstamping is unreliable, serves no safety purpose, is cost prohibitive and, most importantly, is not proven to aid in preventing or solving crimes,” Smith & Wesson said in a press release in 2014.