Gun 'Microstamping' Bill Passes California Senate

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:23 PM EDT

( - The California Senate on Thursday passed a bill that would require the "microstamping" of semi-automatic handguns -- giving cartridges fired from those guns a unique imprint, which according to gun control advocates, would help police solve crimes.

Supporters say microstamping would turn spent cartridges into potential evidence in civil and criminal cases. According the California Million Mom March, "when the police retrieve the bullet casing at a crime scene, they can quickly track down the legal owner of the handgun that fired it."

Nonsense, say Second Amendment supporters, who view the bill as yet another attempt to burden gun manufacturers and further restrict gun sales in the state. They say that gun makers, faced with the added expense of microstamping semiautomatic weapons, would either stop selling their wares in California or drastically raise prices.

The bill (AB 352) would "expand the definition of unsafe handgun to include semiautomatic pistols that are not designed and equipped with a microscopic array of characters, that identify the make, model, and serial number of the pistol, etched into the interior surface or internal working parts of the pistol, and which are transferred by imprinting on each cartridge case when the firearm is fired."

The bill passed the California Senate 22-18 and it now goes to the Assembly -- for a "fight and a final vote," said the California NRA Members' Councils, a grassroots gun-rights network.

The bill's lead sponsor, Assemblyman Paul Koretz (D-West Hollywood) acting in tandem with the Coalition to Stop Handgun Violence, has been fighting to pass the bill since last year.

Griffin Dix, the president of the California Million Mom March Chapters, said police fail to make an arrest in approximately 45 percent of all homicides in California because they lack the evidence they need. "This bill will help providing them with new and meaningful leads for solving handgun crimes," Dix said.

But the California NRA Members' Councils says the microstamping would create false evidence trails.

"Micro-stamped cartridge cases fired and abandoned at government agencies facilities or private shooting ranges could be gathered and used to 'seed' crime scenes with the with 'evidence,' implicating law enforcement officers and citizens" in crimes they had nothing to do with, the group said in an analysis on its website.

The gun-rights group also said microstamped cartridges could not be recycled because they might implicate secondary users of reloaded cartridges. "Millions of pounds of metals will be turned into scrap and require expense disposal requirements imposed so it will not enter landfills."

And without the ability to sell and recycle used (microstamped) cartridge cases, the cost of firearms training will increase for government agencies, the gun rights group added.

Second Amendment supporters also note that microstamps can be easily defeated by replacing parts of the handgun that have been stamped; polishing the microstamp with abrasives or modifying the stamp; and in some cases, the stamped markings may be filled in with residue produced by normal firing of the gun.

Paul Helmke, the new president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, applauded the California State Senate for "embracing this innovative technology," and he said he hopes Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger "will listen to a fellow Republican and sign this bill once it passes."

Second Amendment supporters, meanwhile, say they will mobilize grassroots opposition to the bill in an effort to prevent it from landing on the governor's desk.

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