New York faces skeptics as it tries to get gunmakers to embrace micro-stamping

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New York is the second state to enact legislation to force gun manufacturers to adopt micro-stamping, a technology in which guns imprint tiny codes on ammunition cartridges as they are fired. are drawn, creating a unique signature that police could use to help solve crimes.

Big questions remain, however, about whether the new law will actually lead to such weapons being offered for sale.

California passed a similar law 15 years ago, and since then no handguns capable of micromarking have been offered for sale in that state.

Instead, gunmakers have pulled new handgun designs from the California market rather than outfitting them with the technology, which critics say is expensive, impractical and of questionable value as a weapon. as a tool in the fight against crime.

Both states are now trying new tactics to pressure manufacturers. Proponents of New York’s new law say it has a chance to succeed where California initially failed.

“The New York Legislature has put in place a more robust system that will produce a set of conditions and assessments that don’t depend on the gun industry to give them a thumbs up or a thumbs down” said David Pucino of Giffords Law Center. to prevent armed violence.

A pair of New Hampshire engineers are credited with inventing micro-stamping as a potential law enforcement tool three decades ago. The process involves engraving a serial number inside the firearm, on the tip of the firing pin or on the breech face.

When the weapon fires, this unique number or code is stamped on the shell casing. Law enforcement investigators could then retrieve casings from crime scenes and turn to a database that could show which gun fired the bullet and where that gun was last sold by a gun dealer. licensed firearms.

“The problem here is to provide a forensic tool to identify a firearm when a firearm is not recovered,” said micro-stamping co-inventor Todd Lizotte.

Numbers database

Peter Diaczuk, a firearms expert from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said there are still unanswered issues that still need to be resolved before microstamps become a valuable tool for law enforcement. It is unclear, for example, who would maintain a database capable of linking serial numbers on recovered casings to firearms.

Diaczuk said he’s also worried about the lack of research into micro-stamping and how long the etching technology will last before it wears out. He said worried supporters exaggerate how proven micro-stamping has been.

“It’s absolutely not a panacea, not a magic bullet that’s going to bring down gun crime significantly,” Diazczuk said.

But gun control groups say the technology could still be a valuable tool for law enforcement.

“The gun industry has set up the idea that it has to be 100% working all the time, and that’s not a reality for any technology we have,” said Ari Davis of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.

The California law, passed in 2007, aimed to phase in the technology by requiring it in all new handgun designs. The law has been stalled by legal challenges, but even after a court upheld it in 2018 _ the micro-stamp ruling was technologically possible and reasonably affordable, costing $3.00 to $10.00 per weapon _ manufacturers backed off.

Rather than introducing new models, they continued to sell older models previously approved for sale.

“What the gun industry has done is say, ‘We’re not going to sell new models of guns that fall under the law,'” gun policy expert Dru Stevenson said. late and professor at the South Texas College of Law Houston “The problem with the law is that it grandfathered too many existing models.”

California adjustments

California lawmakers are now trying to make adjustments. New guns used by state law enforcement must use microstamps starting in 2023. Another law would phase out the list of non-compliant handguns approved for sale in California by removing three older models to each new model equipped with microstamp placed on the market. , starting July 1.

New York law takes a different approach. Its microstamp law covers all newly made handguns, not just new models, which means gunsmiths could only circumvent the rule until they exhaust existing stock.

The gun lobby has continued to claim that the costs and challenges of adopting micro-stamping are much higher than portrayed by proponents.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation says the technology actually costs $200 per gun. Ruger CEO Michael O. Fifer told investors in October 2014 that the gunmaker couldn’t make micro-stamping work.

Gun advocacy groups have argued that criminals could replace handgun parts to avoid micro-stamping.

“It’s too easy to edit, too easy to make changes so the numbers aren’t visible,” said New York State Rifle and Pistol Association executive director Tom King. “The reason the state is doing this is because the gun manufacturers have said they won’t make micro-marking guns for a state. It’s a roundabout way to ban guns from New York.

The industry argued that the market for semi-automatic pistols in California is so lucrative that no rational company would sacrifice it unless they really couldn’t find a way to implement the technology.

Half a dozen gunmakers, including Ruger and Smith & Wesson, did not respond to emailed requests for comment on whether they would adopt the technology for guns sold in New York.

Proponents of the law hope that the market pressure created by two major states will be enough to induce gunsmiths to adopt the technology. New York alone has monthly sales of nearly 10,000 guns that could potentially fall under the law, according to Christian Heyne, vice president of the Brady Gun Control Group.

“The ripple effect of being able to force industry to use this technology could have dramatic impacts across the country,” Heyne said.

Whatever changes occur, they will not come quickly. New York is considering a slow rollout of its new law.

State officials will spend six months investigating whether micro-stamping is as technologically viable as its proponents claim. If the answer is “yes”, the State has given itself four years to put in place regulations. After that, dealers who sell firearms that break the law could face fines or the loss of their license.

Maysoon Khan is a member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to report on underreported issues. Follow Maysoon Khan on Twitter.

Pictured: A casing showing identification codes, center, is shown under a microscope during a news conference at the Los Angeles Police Academy, August 14, 2007. New York Governor Kathy Hochul said signed 10 bills related to public safety, Monday, June 7, 2022, including one that will require micro-marking in new firearms, which could help law enforcement solve gun crimes fire. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon, File)

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