Law Enforcers Oppose Calif. Micro-Stamping Gun Bill

By Jeff Johnson | July 7, 2008 | 8:31 PM EDT

( - A bill passed by the anti-gun California state Senate to require "micro-stamping" by all semiautomatic handguns was quickly criticized by pro-Second Amendment groups Thursday. One day later, law enforcement officers are also coming out in force against the bill.

As Cybercast News Service previously reported, California Senate Bill AB 352 would expand the definition of an allegedly "unsafe handgun" to include any semiautomatic pistol that does not include 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." That information must be "transferred by imprinting on each cartridge case when the firearm is fired."

Second Amendment groups immediately laid out the opposition to the bill on constitutional and practical grounds. Now, current and former law enforcement officers are expressing their concerns.

James Fotis, executive director of the Law Enforcement Alliance of America (LEAA), wrote members of the California General Assembly Friday, urging them to kill the bill.

"This legislation is an impractical and costly measure that will not improve public safety," Fotis wrote. "AB 352 is a distraction from real and proven crime-fighting efforts."

LEAA counts more than 75,000 current and former law enforcement officers among its members and supporters.

Fotis' letter is one of dozens of negative comments written about the bill by law enforcement veterans, including critical letters from the Sheriff-Coroners of California's Riverside, Kern, Orange, Mendocino, Modoc, and Tehama Counties.

Despite the opposition from those law enforcement veterans, Griffin Dix, president of the California Million Mom March Chapters, believes the bill should become law because police are unable to solve about 45 percent of California's murders due to "lack of evidence."

"This bill will help police," Dix claimed, "by providing them with new and meaningful leads for solving handgun crimes."

Paul Helmke, the new head of the anti-gun Brady Campaign, praised the California State Senate for "embracing this innovative technology."

But Fotis, a retired, career police officer, calls the idea of "micro-stamping" shell casings "vaguely described and untested technology."

"This idea won't reduce crime on the streets," Fotis said. "LEAA stands with California sheriffs and other law enforcement leaders who have voiced their clear and strong opposition to AB 352."

Anthony Craver, sheriff-coroner of Mendocino County, Calif., was more direct in his assessment of whether or not the bill would "help police," as Dix claimed.

"With millions upon millions of existing handguns owned in California," Craver said, "the probability of this bill having any positive effect on public safety is absurd."

Orange County, Calif., Sheriff-Coroner Michael Carona agreed.

"I cannot see any benefit," Carona said, "other than the simple act of symbolism in the passage of AB 352."

Technology to "micro-stamp" shell casings in a semiautomatic pistol as they are chambered or fired is not commercially available. Firearms experts argue that normal wear and tear within even a seldom-fired gun would interfere with such technology. They warn that the part or parts used to "micro-stamp" the casing would also be subject to tampering or easy removal.

In a joint letter, Modoc County, Calif., Sheriff Bruce Mix and District Attorney Jordan Funk wrote that the proposal would "unnecessarily complicate and hinder proven crime-solving strategies."

Fotis notes that those "proven crime-solving strategies" require something the California legislature cannot afford to squander: funding.

"California is in the midst of a severe money shortage for fighting crime," Fotis wrote.

"Rather than pursuing AB 352, which is costly, unproven, unnecessary-and would ultimately be shown to be ineffective in stopping crime-law enforcement would rather see the money and legislative effort spent on increasing prison space and helping cops on the street break the back of gangs!" Fotis added.

Fotis concludes that the bill "cannot be expected to provide any measurable impact on major crimes like murder."

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