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Microstamping as Panacea

May 18, 2013

Talk about a Friday news dump… The California AG office released a statement yesterday that all new handguns sold must have microstamping technology in place.  Like now.

A hotly contested gun-control law that was passed in 2007 is finally ready to  be implemented, Attorney General Kamala  Harris said Friday: a requirement that every new semiautomatic handgun  contain “micro-stamping” technology that would allow police to trace a weapon  from cartridges found at a crime scene.

The law, signed by then-Gov. Arnold  Schwarzenegger, made California the first state to require micro-stamping,  which engraves the gun’s serial number on each cartridge. But the legislation  specified that it would take effect only when the technology was available and  all private patents had expired.

If you’re not familiar with the technology, it basically puts a unique mark on each firing pin that then stamps the primer in the brass.  Theoretically the brass can be traced by the police at crime scenes.  The concept is a great idea, since it helps with law enforcement.

Whenever I test a strategy, I always start with the corner cases.  For instance:

  • What happens over time?  Does the pin wear and lose the stamp?
  • Couldn’t you just file the pin once or twice and get rid of the stamp?
  • What if criminals case gun ranges and steal brass so that they can throw the police off the trail?

There are boatloads of other cases.  This isn’t to say it’s a bad idea.  There are plenty of other reasons to say it’s a bad idea.  I just wonder what this does to one of the few industries — firearms sales — that’s actually thriving in California right now.

Keep an eye on this one.

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