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Microstamping debate heats up

The lobbying battle over microstamping — using lasers to make microscopic engravings on the breech face and firing pin of a gun so that it stamps the gun’s make, model and serial number onto every cartridge it fires — is reaching white-hot temperatures in Sacramento.

AB 1471 — introduced by Assemblyman Mike Feuer, D-West Hollywood — would require gunmakers to adopt microstamping of all new semiautomatic handgun models sold in California by 2010. The Assembly Public Safety Committee approved the bill 5-2 on April 24; the Appropriations Committee approved it 12-5 on May 16; and now it’s headed toward a floor vote.

The National Rifle Association has been dead-set against this practice from day one, and issued a news release this morning noting it’s not supported by law enforcement; a gun’s micro-stamped parts can too easily be replaced; micro-stamped cartridge cases could be used to seed crime scenes with false evidence; it’ll drive up firearm prices; and a recent UC-Davis study found the technology doesn’t work so well.

But just yesterday, the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence and the Brady Campaign put out a release saying Capitol Hill staffers were wowed by a live-fire demonstration of the technology last Friday in Washington, D.C. That release sought to discredit the UC-Davis study, noting it wasn’t peer-reviewed; it wasn’t commissioned by the Legislature; and it used older firearms which aren’t up for microstamping because of their age and mechanical condition (while the bill calls for using the technology only on new semi-automatics).

“Critics are going to throw everything at this bill to try to prevent real progress,” Kay Holmen, president of the California Brady Campaign Chapters, said in the release. “The fact is that the gun lobby has no real arguments against the science — and feasibility — of microstamping technology.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.