New York Assembly Passes Controversial Micro-Stamping Gun Bill

Last week the New York State Assembly voted 84 to 55 to approve a bill that would require the controversial process known as gun micro-stamping. The measure, Assembly Bill 1157, will now head to the Senate Codes Committee for consideration.

The bill, proposed by Michelle Schimel (D-16), would mandate micro-stamping for all semi-automatic pistols currently in production, and would further require that all newly designed semi-auto pistols delivered to licensed firearms dealers in New York carry the laser micro-stamp.

Firearm micro-stamping is a highly controversial process that uses laser technology to engrave microscopic gun information – such as make, model, serial number, etc. – on the tip of the gun’s firing pin. Additionally, like information can be engraved on the breech face or other areas of a firearm.

By micro-stamping the firing pin and breech face of the firearm, the stamped etchings are transferred -upon the firing of the weapon – onto both the cartridge casing and the round. In theory, law enforcement can then cross-reference or trace spent casings and fired cartridges to the gun from which they were fired.

New York is not the first place to consider the technology. California passed AB 1471 in October of 2007, a bill singed into law by Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger requiring the use of firearm micro-stamping. However, the implementation has been put on hold, presumably while technological and feasability details are analyzed. California law enforcement officials are not bound by micro-stamping laws.

The merits of micro-stamping are highly controversial and vigorously debated. Proponents of the practice argue that micro-stamping provides law enforcement with a valuable tool, enabling fired cartridge casings from crime scenes to be matched with the weapon used. In addition, through cross-referencing gun registry databases, law enforcement could also trace firearms used in crimes to their last registered owner. Furthermore, supporters of the practice claim that its use could help law enforcement track and thwart the illegal gun trade.

Opponents of micro-stamping argue, among other things, that the cost of implementation will be passed along to consumers and gun manufacturers alike, discouraging gun makers from doing business in states that require the potentially costly practice. Skeptics also claim that micro-stamping can easily be thwarted by simply filing away the laser engraving or replacing stamped gun components. In addition, opponents warn that spent range casings could be gathered and planted at crime scenes in order to confuse police or unjustly implicate law-abiding gun owners in criminal activity.

If passed, the current New York proposal would require micro-stamping on all new semi-automatic pistols sold after January 1, 2013. The proposed date could be moved up if gun manufacturers can produce micro-stamps on two internal surfaces of semi-automatic pistols for a cost of less than $12.00. Theoretically, the law would take effect at whichever date arrives earliest.