Following Sturm, Ruger’s announcement last month that it would no longer be selling its semi-automatic handguns to California residents because of the state’s new microstamping law, Smith & Wesson announced on Wednesday, January 22, that it was following suit. From its press release, the company said:
Smith & Wesson does not and will not include microstamping in its firearms.
A number of studies have indicated that microstamping is unreliable, serves no safety purpose, is cost prohibitive and, most importantly, is not proven in preventing or solving crimes.
This will not totally remove either company’s products from the California market, however:
The microstamping mandate and the company’ unwillingness to adopt this so-called technology will result in a diminishing number of Smith & Wesson semi-automatic pistols available for purchase by California residents.
Previously, Sturm Ruger said:
The ill-conceived law requiring the incorporation of microstamping technology into semi-automatic pistols is forcing Ruger pistols off the [California market]…
Microstamping has been promoted ever since 1969 by anti-gun politicians when then-president Lyndon Johnson recommended “a system of giving each gun a number and the development of some device to imprint this number on each bullet fired from the gun.” In simple terms each gun and each cartridge fired from it would have a “fingerprint” which would then be entered into a national database which would be used, allegedly, to help police solve crimes. As Baltimore Police Commissioner Frederick Bealefeld said, the new microstamping technology recently developed “would just take us from the Stone Age to the jet age in an instant.”
But only if it worked, and only if it is constitutional. It doesn’t, and it isn’t. Despite advances in the technology which would, using lasers, imprint a code on both the firing pin of a pistol but also in its breech (the rear of the barrel holding the cartridge). Upon firing the pin would imprint this unique alpha-numeric code onto the primer and onto the cartridge as it expanded during firing. Recovered cases from a crime scene could them be cross-checked with a national registry to determine the owner of the gun.
The problems with such a strategy are numerous, not the least of which it has the effect of banning guns in California without explicitly banning them, a goal long sought after by anti-gun politicians. As noted by David Kopel, a constitutional law professor at Denver University:
The technology doesn’t fully exist yet, but by making it into a law, they [California politicians have] enacted a gun law without actually passing one.
This is an indirect way to ban new handguns from being sold.
A 2008 National Academy of Sciences report said that there was serious question over whether those unique fingerprints would remain constant and consistent over time and after many rounds had been fired. Other studies have shown that the full code is only readable about half the time, and that many shell casings would have to be retrieved from a crime scene to improve their accuracy.
Additionally criminals would be able to remove and replace the offending pins or deface the pin easily, further impeding any crime scene forensic analysis.
According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE), nine out of ten guns used in crimes are stolen, so that knowing the original owner would likely be of little use in tracking the miscreants. Such a law would have the perverse effect of making home thefts more prevalent, and, since the law excludes law enforcement officials, increases the chances of weapons being stolen from police vehicles or those carrying them. And this further raises the stakes in that those LEO agencies themselves would be more likely involved in lawsuits as those weapons are traced back to them.
The list goes on. Revolvers don’t expel cartridges so the microstamping law wouldn’t affect them. Neither would it impact pump-action, bolt-action, or level-action firearms unless the user deliberately operates their unloading mechanism.
Most violent crimes don’t involve guns. According to the FBI, three-quarters of violent crimes aren’t committed with guns. And the law leaves in place the millions of existing weapons (at least so far) that aren’t affected by the new law.
There are other problems with the microstamping law. Even if it worked, microstamping would only trace the cartridges back to the last registered owner, not necessarily to the person who fired the gun. Since most criminals steal their weapons, the microstamped case would not lead to the criminal.
Devious criminals could retrieve spent cases from a firing range and “salt” crime scenes with spurious microstamped cases, leading investigators on wild goose chases and the likely increased invasion of innocents’ lives.
The real problem with the new microstamping law in California is the Second Amendment. The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) and the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers Institute have filed a lawsuit against California claiming that the new law is unconstitutional. This parallels another lawsuit being brought by Dick Heller, the defendant in the famous 2008 Supreme Court ruling, District of Columbia v. Heller called “Heller II”, claiming that the District of Columbia’s 17-step gun registration protocol “appears calculated to discourage persons from registering at all and, for those who do so, to scare them off with expiration and re-registration deadlines that, if missed, would turn them into criminals.”
The original Heller ruling, it will be remembered, along with its sister ruling in McDonald v. Chicago, clearly ruled that the Second Amendment applies to individuals and efforts by California and the District of Columbia to restrict that right are doomed to fail. As Emily Miller, Washington Times senior editor, noted:
Microstamping is simply a ban on guns. California and DC will have a short period to enjoy their gun grab until the courts rule that this dictate violates the Second Amendment.