Microstamping calls the shots

A revolutionary gun indentification technology finds favor and foes

     The NSSF believes the price of firearms for all consumers, including municipalities purchasing firearms for law enforcement agencies, will increase dramatically. Some estimates run as high as $50 to $100 per firearm.

     Tulleners, however, estimates that setting up a facility to engrave the firing pins of every handgun sold in California would cost approximately $8 per firing pin the first year, falling to under $2 per firing pin in subsequent years.

Law and no order

     There also may be lurking legal issues with microstamping. Novin says even with microstamping technology laws, like AB 1471, the technology has limited value.

     "As with ballistics imaging, there is a serious chain-of-custody problem that renders any information derived from the technology essentially worthless from an evidentiary point of view," he notes.

     The California National Rifle Association (NRA) Members' Councils reported on its Web site, during the debate on AB 352 (the Assembly's 2006 attempt at a microstamping law), that microstamping could even create false evidence trails. Their fear was that microstamped cartridge cases fired and abandoned at any police or public firing range could be gathered and used to seed crime scenes with false evidence, implicating innocent law enforcement officers and citizens in crimes they had nothing to do with.

     California Assemblyman Paul Koretz, author of AB 352, says the whole idea of microstamping is to give law enforcement a new tool to track both killers and unscrupulous gun dealers.

     "The idea was never that someone would be convicted solely on the basis of the microstamp," said he stresses.

     Douglas Page is a science/technology writer living in Pine Mountain, California. He can be reached at douglaspage@earthlink.net.

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