ammunition microstamping
By Microstamper at en.wikipedia, CC BY 2.5, Link
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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 SVP for Government and Public Affairs, Assistant Secretary and General Counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

 

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54 COMMENTS

  1. This type of gun law goes beyond unconstitutionality and enters the realm of absurdity by placing criminals on the honor system (just like restricting magazine capacity with easily replaceable plugs).

    Or do they attend to make it work by completely eliminating civilian possession of sandpaper, files, and, uh, rocks?

    • This is just one of dozens of attacks on the 2A in their ongoing war of attrition on the 2A and the Constitution in total. There will be more until one side or the other ceases to exist.

      • GunnyGene,

        You have it correctly. The DemoCCP party is determined to make the USA a single party system and they are well on their way.

        The FBI has a nation-wide hunt for anyone who was on the Capitol grounds Jan 6. They have a billboard one mile from my home. Yet, Antifa and BLM operate with impunity.

        The SCOTUS authorized a fishing expedition in Trump’s tax returns, but will not look at the evidence for foreign interference and rabid fraud in the Nov. 3 election..

        Roger Stone and his wife were SWAT-teamed, but but the FISA court abuses have been burried.

        We can all come up with lots of these contrasts.

        The assault on gun ownership is just one more tool being used to destroy not only the Constitution, but those who believe in it and who are willing to fight for it.

        • I’m 76. I’ve been watching our 2A rights being slowly degraded and/or removed since 1968. It ain’t over yet. The one bright spot is the last 10years of States passing permitless carry legislation. If that is torpedoed before it includes a strong majority of States (30 or more) we are toast.

        • I doubt that, Gunny. It would be completely insane for any Federal court to tell States they’ve gone “too far” in acknowledging the “shall not infringed” of the USC 2A within their respective borders.

    • If the process is the case is stamped, probably by the firing pin on the primer as case setback on the breech face may not be reliable enough, doesn’t that mean there has to be a correlation between the micro stamp to the gun and from the gun to the owner?

      Does the system account for stolen guns?

      • I suppose it could, if 100% were reported, but that in turn would require “revictimize the victim” BS laws (like “safe storage”) for enforceability.

      • Imagine the market for ‘sterile’ replacement firing pins…

      • It cannot, even with one hundred percent reporting of lost or stolen guns, you cannot connect an unknown criminal to a particular firearm through a microstamp any more than you can do it through a serial number. That is the fallacy of the original justification for the California bill, was that it would (somehow) assist LE in solving cases, I suppose in particular where the firearm is not left at the scene. But with “time to crime” approaching a decade, and most crime guns having been obtained illegally, the system can be only slightly more effective that gun tracing. (As an aside, you will note that the government has NEVER disclosed the effectiveness of tracing in solving crimes.)

        • If you’re replying to me, I interpreted Southern Cross’s question to be about correlating a gun – stolen, used in a subsequent crime, taken into evidence and analyzed – to its original owner.

    • In the extremely unlikely scenario where everything worked PERFECTLY, you could prove that this gun fired that bullet. Which does absolutely NOTHING to inform who was holding this gun at the time. IOW, incredible expense with near-zero benefit. Which would be fine by the banners, since they plan to stick gun owners with the cost. It does not benefit me, I do not want it. If *YOU* want it to be on my next gun, then *YOU* should be paying for it. Really simple. If you ignore that, try this; I will not comply.

  2. It doesn’t take deliberate action to remove the microstamp. It will wear over time. It will fill with gunk. A firing pin that drags on the primer makes it useless. None of these things matter. It’s obvious that antigunners don’t care about reducing crime. If they can do something to backdoor registration or make it more expensive to own a gun, they’re for it. They don’t care if it will face legal challenges. They don’t care that poor minorities are disproportionately disarmed. They don’t care if it takes extra weeks to exercise your rights. Those are bonus advantages, not flaws, in their view.

    • The purpose of the law, despite the protestations of the California legislative authors, has absolutely nothing with solving crime; its sole purpose is to reduce the number of semiautomatic handguns available on the California market. This proposition was amply demonstrated when then DA Kamala Harris certified that the technology was available that would satisfy the requirements of the law that a stamp be placed in TWO spots on a cartridge was “generally available” to the industry. This was an out and out lie. Rather, the ONLY technology available was experimental, unreliable, and only stamped the primer on ONE place.

    • Southern Cross, shhh, don’t give them any ideas! They’re likely to call revolvers a “loophole that needs closing” and require microstamping of those, too. I’m sure they’re too dumb to know that revolvers don’t eject the brass upon firing each shot!

      Does anyone know if the Commiefornia microstamping law has solved any crimes, even one solitary crime?
      My guess is no, but I’d like to see a link pointing out that it has solved zero crimes.

      It surely hasn’t prevented any crimes. Do the Commiefornia politicians really expect criminals to say, “Gee, I was going to murder someone, but it’s too much trouble to sandpaper the firing pin of my pistol to remove the microstamping, so I guess I’ll just cancel my murder plans.”

    • Revolvers are exempt from the requirement of micro stamping. They still though need to go through the initial lab testing to end up on the roster and payment of the renewal fee every year.

      • Wasn’t there a revolver that was able to use a few different calibers that was all kinds of drama back in the 90’s (I think) for CA?

        • You probably mean the Taurus Judge, which was banned in Commiefornia as a “short-barreled shotgun” because it can shoot .410 shotgun shells (not very well) as well as .45 Colt. Also the Smith & Wesson Governor is banned for the same reason, as it can shoot .410 shotgun shells, .45 Colt, and .45 ACP.

          In reality, the Judge and Governor are snub-nosed revolvers that shoot .410 shotgun shells very poorly, and a .410 slug or 00 buckshot out of one of these revolvers is a lot less deadly than a .45 Colt bullet out of the same guns!

        • I think it something like the Medusa but yes could see the judge setting CA off as well. Or any useful firearm really.

  3. The dual-placement requirement really just gives the game away. There has never been a technology for marking a case anywhere but on the primer, and for good reason. In a centerfire cartridge, the primer is made of softer material than the rest of the case – it’s meant to be deformed, whereas the case rim or groove must be stiff enough to support extraction. And of course the primer already has a ready-made mechanism for striking it.

  4. I live in CA and back in 2009 I bought my first handgun a Sig P226. Like most first-time shooters I was eager to go to the range and took one of my buddies who brought his Glock 19. There was an older guy there who had a bunch of evolvers and he struck up a conversation with us. He asked if we knew about the Microstamping law that Governor Schwarzenegger signed back in 2007. He explained to us that it would eventually ban all handguns in California. When me and my buddy left the range, I remember talking about this microstamping and thought that he was crazy. I thought to myself this will get struck down in court anyway It’s completely ridiculous.

    Several years later I decided to buy another handgun. Some of the guns I looked at online stated they were not on the roster. I called the gun store at the time and ask him what this roster is, and he explained it to me and it was because of this stupid microstamping law. Over the next couple of years there was a lawsuit against this and back when Kamela Harris was an attorney general she fought for it tooth and nail. This continued under Xavier Beccera as well. I never thought this would ever be successful. These people are evil

    Hopefully things will change here in the future because President Trump changed the makeup of the Ninth Circuit. Plus there’s a lot of new gun owners who found out you can’t buy popular handguns because of the roster. Today if you wanted to buy Sig P226 it now has a stupid loaded chamber indicator on the slide so it can remain on the Safe Handguns for California Roster.

  5. You can always move out of state, set up residency, legally buy the handguns you want, and then move back. I am sure they may stop AR and AK platform handguns, but other handguns(as long as the mag only holds 10rds, would be legal, at this time).

    • Ok and how am I supposed to do that? My business my family, my friends all live here. It is not that easy where you can just pick up and go and move to another state so I can buy a Gen 4 Glock. At this point I would rather donate to Pro Gun organizations than purchase more firearms. The point of the article is you should be concerned that these people who enacted this level of gun control are now at the Federal level. And there plan is to bring this garbage to your state as well.

      I hope you are politically active and donate to pro 2nd amendment causes.

  6. “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.”

    How did we get from stamping cases to stamping bullets? And what magical technology is going to put them there? Or is the next step going to be mandated bespoke ammunition that comes pre-stamped exclusively for use in a particular handgun?

    • The magazines would also have to be one time use only. Which one legislative idiot a few years ago out west thought was the case anyway.

    • There was a proposal to have bullets serialised to a batch or box and buyers recorded. Bullet makers said not economically viable.

    • Progressives would have a fit if they read “The adventures of TinTin” by Herge and especially the early books. I read them growing up. They played on a lot of national stereotypes in the stories.

    • The banning of Dr. Seuss is pretty big.

      That’s called “muscle flexing”. They’re showing that they can fuck with you any time they like for any reason, including one that doesn’t actually exist.

      It’s a shot across the bow, an attempt to get “compliance in advance”.

  7. Oh, yeah. More “blah, blah, blah…”

    We’ve heard this crap before: “It won’t work”. Just like they told us about Socialism, Fascism and Communism. The only reason microstamping won’t work is because the best minds in America (indeed, the world) haven’t been tapped.

    What people and nations haven’t accomplished in the past is because only Americans have the brilliance, ingenuity, social commitment, compassion, and general all-around goodness to make guns safe, and prevent crime.

    There is no better method for tracing guns to the actual person committing a crime, than microstamping every component, piece and surface of guns, accessories, parts, and ammunition. We have blockchain. We have databases. We have digital currency. We are on the right side of history.

    Viva la Revolución !
    Viva Las Vegas !
    Viva Max !
    Free the internet !
    Free the Whales !
    Free Slick Willie !

    • Because the best minds with practical experience wrote it off as a “WOMBAT job”.

      Waste Of Money, Brains, And Time.

    • Yes, why not go all out. How about requiring a port going down from the barrel through the frame, and out through a special nozzle that brands your trigger finger with a unique tattoo. Something like Kwai Chang Caine’s pot of hot coals.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HmF0RqazR_8

      Side benefit would be, most folks would probably fire it only once, then drop it at the scene and head for the nearest urgent care center, where they would subsequently be held for questioning.

      Pfui.

  8. We’re going to need bigger guns, is all. If you’re toting a 5″ 54 caliber Naval gun, microstamping can be made to work. Oh – wait – no firing pin – it’s fired electrically. My bad, LOL!

    (Just for info, 5″ 54 rounds weigh 72 pounds – and the powder charge is another 72 pounds.)

  9. The fact that microstamping doesn’t work is irrelevant. If there was an innovation in microstamping that made it effective (or an alternate technical solution), would that make it okay? No.

    We need to draw a line in the sand on pure grounds of freedom and government overreach.

  10. @ Ghost of Haz March 9, 2021 At 18:13

    “I doubt that, Gunny. It would be completely insane for any Federal court to tell States they’ve gone “too far” in acknowledging the “shall not infringed” of the USC 2A within their respective borders.”

    Yes it would be. However, people who are serious about conquering a country often do insane things. Like murdering millions of their own countrymen.

  11. …so, there are two rows of four characters in this micro-stamping technique. Anybody know where the encoding scheme is defined?

    I looked up the patent, and it went into great detail on how the codes are etched onto the firing pin, but I could not find a description of what the code contains, nor the encoding scheme.

    Maybe I missed it?

  12. “Side benefit would be, most folks would probably fire it only once, then drop it at the scene and head for the nearest urgent care center, where they would subsequently be held for questioning.”

    Kinda like the drift of your thinking. Very innovative.

  13. “I looked up the patent, and it went into great detail on how the codes are etched onto the firing pin, but I could not find a description of what the code contains, nor the encoding scheme.”

    Whatever the scheme, we would need a new oversight agency to ensure no manufacturer or private firearm builder duplicates an identifying code. And charge a fee for accessing the existing microstamp database. $250 should do it.

  14. “M3 Gustaf guns for everyone?”

    Don’t proliferate the calibre wars: buy what you can afford; keep it well maintained.

  15. It would appear that the patent for micro-stamping ammunition has expired. Found out that there is a mechanism for purchasing expired patents; the process exists on the Patent website. Hassle would be in negotiating the purchase price from the inventor. Once the patent is purchased, and any maintenance/late fees are paid, the patent is yours.

    Interesting possibility for someone (or a group) to purchase the expired patent, and then just sit on developing the technology, effectively killing it.

  16. “In the extremely unlikely scenario where everything worked PERFECTLY, you could prove that this gun fired that bullet. Which does absolutely NOTHING to inform who was holding this gun at the time. IOW, incredible expense with near-zero benefit. ”

    Not quite a waste. Authorities should be able to trace the weapon to the last legal owner, and open that person to charges of not safely storing, or protecting said weapon from being stolen, or used in a crime. Burning an otherwise law abiding gun owner is its own reward.

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