According to the NSSF the New York State Assembly is, once again, considering a bill (AB 1157b) which would require all semi-auto handguns manufactured or sold in the state, “…is manufactured to produce a unique alpha-numeric or geometric code on at least two locations on each expended cartridge case that identifies the make, model, and serial number of the pistol.” Unfortunately there is only one (patented, proprietary), manufacturing technique that will satisfy these requirements. According to Wikipedia, the manufacturer of this technology claims that it will only cost $0.50 to $8.50 per firearm to implement. Section 7 of AB1157 limits the cost to $12 per firearm in a 1,000 gun batch. Theoretically. But you know those devils…
The damned things always hide way down there in the details. The relevant portion of Section 7 states that the law will be implemented:
at such time that the superintendent of the state police has received written notice from one or more microstamp job shops that such shop or shops are willing and prepared to produce microstamp structures on two internal surfaces of a semiautomatic pistol in accordance with subdivision 24 of section 265.00 of the penal law for a price of twelve dollars or less at a production level of one thousand semiautomatic pistols per batch
Well that’s good. It looks like manufacturers won’t have to re-tool their lines after all, they can just send pistols to a job shop to get the fiddly stuff done. Of course, I don’t know what gun sales are like in New York. It may be that all semi-auto manufacturers can expect sufficient volume to warrant sending off 1,000 pistols at a time to be retro-fitted for microstamping. After all, the delay in the manufacturing stream will be only, um, will be limited to . . . huh. It doesn’t say how long the “job shop” has to get the conversions done.
Well, that’s okay. I’m sure Jim Brady’s fly-by-night job shop would never consider incorporating and informing the Superintendent of the State Police that they were ready to modify pistols for only $12 each, only to sit around and collect money for a few months before folding their tent and slip away in the night. Of course not.
But just for the sake of argument, if someone did pull a fast one like that on Beretta, Browning, CZ, Colt, EAA, FNH, Glock, H&K, Hi-Point, Kahr, Kel-Tec, Kimber, Magnum Research, NAA, Para-Ordnance, Remington, Ruger, Sig, S&W, Springfield Armory, STI Int’l, Tanfoglio, Taurus and Walther…and each sent only 1,000 pistols, that’s $288 grand to scarper with. Not enough to provide any temptation. Right?
And just how carved in stone is that $12 per gun cost? Well, it says right there in the law that they can only charge manufacturers $12 per gun start to finish . . . Oh, waitaminnit, it doesn’t say that. It says that they have to announce that they are willing and prepared to produce microstamp structures for $12 or less for a 1,000 gun run.
But how about the fees? Will there be an unpacking fee? A dis-assembly fee? A barrel longer than 4″ surcharge? A barrel less than 3.999″ surcharge? A re-assembly fee? Testing fee? Shop fee? Packing fee? Shipping costs and handling fees? Plus, the law says nothing that would stop such a shop from doing the first batch of 1,000 guns for $12 (plus $100 in various fees) and then immediately raising its price to $100 (plus $12 in various fees).
I know, I know, that whole theory is ridiculous. Why would someone go into business just to implement a scam? After all, once you have their pistols, why would a manufacturer be willing to pay you a bunch more money to get their pistols that are worth a lot of money back? Oh. Hmm, so we have now gone from a $288,000 scam to a $2,688,000 scam.
But let’s assume for a moment that we have honest people doing the work. People who will stand behind their product because if their product fails, legal liability will fall on their shou . . . oh, wait. Legal liability will fall on their customers shoulders. According to the law, if the job shop uses crappy materials or a poor process, the customers get to go to court:
Subdivision 6 of section 265.10 of the penal law, as amended by chapter 189 of the laws of 2000, is amended to read as follows:
6. (A) any person who wilfully [sic] defaces any machine-gun, large capacity ammunition feeding device or firearm, including defacing a microstamping component or mechanism of a semiautomatic pistol as described in subdivision twenty-five of section 265.00 of this article, is guilty of a class D felony.
And the law says that:
The possession by any person of a defaced machine-gun, firearm, rifle or shotgun is presumptive evidence that such person defaced the same, provided, however, that this subdivision shall not apply to possession of a semi-automatic pistol where the defacement alleged consists of defacing a microstamping component or mechanism of such pistol.
So you do have the presumption of innocence, you just have to pay lawyers, bail bondsmen, etc., large amounts of money to get your day in court. Where, if convicted, you will go to prison for up to 7 years, unless the judge is not a gun hater and takes pity on you in the belief that you are an upstanding citizen, in which case he can sentence you to one year or less. Which does not change the fact that you are still a felon, and therefore barred for life from owning guns.
But as anyone who follows civil rights of the gun variety knows, laws can be changed. In the original ’68 GCA, a FFL could lose their license for minor paperwork violations. This led to such abuse by the ATF that in 1986 Congress passed the Firearm Owners Protection Act (FOPA) which amended the law to specify that violations must be willful. Naturally, over the last few years, the antis have been agitating to change the law back. On page 5 of this “study” by the Brady Bunch, they complain:
The FOPA protects criminals and lawbreaking gun dealers by imposing a heightened “willfulness” burden of proof for most gun law violations.
And in testimony to Congress on the need to pass stricter gun laws in the wake of the ATF’s Operation Fast & Furious (hey, wasn’t that just paranoid gunloon fantasy? Never mind, another post for another day) Paul Helmke, speaking as head of the Brady Bunch stated:
It is also too difficult to stop corrupt gun dealers from continuing to sell guns, even after they have been found to violate gun laws. To revoke a gun dealer’s license, ATF must meet an extraordinary burden of proof, higher than required even in most criminal cases. ATF must prove that a dealer “willfully” violated the law, requiring proof that the dealer not only broke the law but also knew that his or her conduct was unlawful. Because of this standard, ATF generally requires repeated violations of the law over many years before it attempts to revoke a license. As a result, license revocations are exceedingly rare.
How long will it be before prosecutors and cops start whining that it’s too hard to prove willfulness so we need to lower the standard? Once that happens, someone found with a “defaced” pistol will have to go to trial to prove their innocence and if convicted, yada-yada see above. We don’t need no steenkin’ presumption of innocence!
So now that we have dissected the legislation, what about the practical aspects of the law? How effective is microstamping and will it, in fact, assist police in solving crimes? Stay tuned for my next post . . .