The Moronic Myths of Microstamping

(Photo: NSSF)

By Larry Keane

Microstamping has reared up as gun control schemers elevate it as a sophisticated means of “gun safety,” a sly euphemism for gun control. Proponents of the unworkable, unreliable and ineffective concept keep their heads in the sand regarding the feasibility of microstamping mandates because they can’t face the truth. It doesn’t work.

Boondoggle Backstory

Microstamping is unproven and unworkable technology, using a laser to imprint a shallow unique identifying code on a handgun’s firing pin, transferring the mark to a spent cartridge casing once it has fired. Gun control politicians push the “technology” to “reduce gun violence.” In their minds, microstamping connects the dots on crime, a criminally misused firearm and the criminal. Except that’s not realistic and forcing gun manufacturers to implement microstamping on new guns, or retrofit existing firearms, only limits lawful firearm ownership.

Todd Lizotte, who holds the patent for the sole-source microstamping technology, recognized this reality in a peer reviewed study. “Legitimate questions exist related to both the technical aspects, production costs, and database management associated with microstamping that should be addressed before wide scale implementation is legislatively mandated.”

Third-party researchers agree. Forensic firearms examiner Professor George Kristova wrote, “Implementing this technology will be much more complicated than burning a serial number on a few parts and dropping them into firearms being manufactured.” The University of California at Davis, hardly a gun rights redoubt, reported, “At the current time it is not recommended that a mandate for implementation of this technology be made.”

A National Academy of Science study concluded that “the durability and survivability of markings on the bullet are still major concerns. Bullets would also be likely to suffer the corrosive effects of blood and other substances.” An Iowa State University study stated that “legitimate questions exist related to the technical aspects, production costs and database management associated with microstamping that should be addressed before wide scale implementation is legislatively mandated.”

That bottom line is microstamping doesn’t work. Lizotte himself agreed that alphanumeric codes are often illegible under even perfect conditions. Electron microscopes couldn’t detect legible codes in testing. Even under perfect conditions, it would take at least 10 spent cartridges make an “educated guess” to piece together a legible code. More practically, this technology can easily be defeated with sandpaper or a nail file as the microstamping mark is only 25 microns (half the diameter of a human hair). Criminals already obliterate serial numbers etched into a firearm frame.

Little Digits, Big Problems

California ignored these impossibilities and passed a dual-placement microstamping mandate in 2007, despite the firearm industry testifying the technology doesn’t work. Then-California Attorney General and now Vice President Kamala Harris certified the law in 2013, along with California’s Roster of Handguns Certified for Sale. Since then, firearm manufactures have introduced no new handguns to California. Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom signed AB 2847 into law in 2020, reducing the microstamping requirement to a single place, but speeding up the number of handguns falling off the list of those approved for sale in California. For every new handgun added to California’s Roster of Handguns Certified for Sale, three older models must be removed. When the initial microstamping law took effect, there were 953 pistols on the roster. As of November 2020, there are only 497, as any modification to a model even to improve the safety and reliability of a handgun constitutes a new model requiring microstamping.

California Dreaming

California is the only state to enact microstamping, but other states are considering it. Connecticut tried once before in 2009 but the bill was defeated. Democratic state Rep. Jillian Gilchrist introduced HB 5584, trying to require the impossible technology in her state again this year.

California’s considering going back to dual-placement requirements, which it just rolled back a year ago. Democratic Assemblyman David Chiu, who wrote the single-placement law, introduced a bill just weeks ago to up the requirement back to two places on a cartridge. It’s still unworkable and the requirement to speed up the removal of handguns off the roster remains. It was never about solving crime. It has always been about eliminating handguns.

On the federal level, microstamping legislation was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2008 by then-Congressman Xavier Beccera (D-Calif.), who became California’s attorney general after Vice President Harris won election to the Senate. Becerra is now President Joe Biden’s Health and Human Services Secretary nominee awaiting U.S. Senate approval. He would join an administration itching to throw roadblocks in front of the firearm industry and deprive law-abiding Americans the ability to exercise their Second Amendment rights.

Larry Keane is Senior Vice President of Government and Public Affairs and General Counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry trade association.

Buy and Sell on GunsAmerica! All Local Sales are FREE!

{ 5 comments… add one }
  • Stan d. Upnow May 20, 2022, 11:15 am

    Here’s what they really want:
    Force every gun buyer to have a microchip implanted before purchasing any gun, ammo, or even firearm accessory. Each purchase will be entered into the microchip during check-out. Now, there’s a complete record of each individual’s lifetime firearm-related acquisitions. This wonderful idea could easily be expanded to include 24/7 GPS tracking, as well.

    Technology in the wrong hands is dangerous.

  • Mark N March 9, 2021, 1:39 am

    A couple of inaccuracies in the article. First, the California mandate does not apply to revolvers, and a number have been added, including all of the new Colt revolvers (although all of Colts 111s were forced off the roster when they went to modern CNC machining of the frames and slides). It is more accurate to say that no new semiautomatic pistols have been added, and quite a number have been dropped. Second, there is no holder of the patent, which is a story in and of itself. The orignial owner of the patent–which places a single stamp on the primer when the gun is fired–waived his patent to avoid it falling into the hands of a gun rights group seeking to prevent the 2007 law from taking effect. To add to all of that, out inimitable VP certified that the technology complying with the microstamping requirement existed and was generally available to the industry, all of which was an out an out lie. As noted, the law required two stamps, and one had to be on the casing, not on the primer–and such technology does not exist to this day. The only tech available at the time a) stamped in only one location, b) was still experimental, and c) had not been shown to be reliable.

    What should be the final straw in the back of microstamping is that the whole idea is to perfect the idea that tracing was supposed to accomplish but, for reasons unrelated to technology, can rarely connect the firearm found at the scene of a crime to the criminal for the simple reason that most crime guns are stolen. It is an easy matter to get from the manufacturer to the wholesaler to the FFL to the first buyer–but after that it is very hit and miss. So the thought was that since spent cases are often left behind, even when the gun is not, we can still trace the gun from the case. But that same dream runs smack dab into the reality faced by gun traces–stolen firearms. And that is to say nothing about the fact that at the present stage of development, the stamp is both unreliable and easily defeated.

    • Stan d. Upnow May 20, 2022, 11:27 am

      I remember some years ago the HUTA authorities required each new pistol to include two fired cartridge cases with the gun. One case was to be retained in a file by the FFL, the other to be sent to LE. Yeah, that stupid idea went over big.

      The morons constantly clamor for more restrictions in the name of “gun safety,” as they refuse to prosecute and incarcerate violent criminals. Kinda shows their Real intent, doesn’t it?

  • kc (sire/your majesty) March 8, 2021, 4:28 pm

    As always, politicians exempt themselves. Let’s arm the Secret Service and protections details exclusively with smart guns and microstamp technology. Then let us know how that works for you…

    • Stan d. Upnow May 20, 2022, 11:33 am

      C’mon, kc, we need to protect the politicians who’re hell-bent on “fundamentally transforming” the country and subjugating the populace. If you don’t agree, you must be a “domestic terrorist.”

Leave a Comment

Send this to a friend