On July 1, 2010, U.S. Representative Dan Boren (D-Okla.) introduced H.R. 5667, the Firearms Microstamping Evaluation and Study Act. The bill would require a study (1) to determine whether a firearm could be manufactured with “microstamping” technology that would work reliably and be cost-effective for law enforcement purposes, (2) to determine the cost of “microstamping” to manufacturers, firearm owners and state governments, and (3) to determine whether “microstamping” technology could work with non-metallic cartridge cases.
Gun control supporters and vendors of “microstamping” gadgetry argue that if brand new firearms could be made with a firing pin or another internal part that could imprint a unique microscopic code onto the cartridge case of a round of ammunition fired in a firearm, and the code were entered into a computerized database, police investigators could pick up a cartridge case left at the crime scene, identify the markings on the case, run the markings against the database, and thereby identify the person that bought the firearm from which the round had been fired.
Opponents of “microstamping” raise the following objections:
- “Microstamping” has repeatedly failed in tests. A 2006 University of California (Davis) study concluded, “it is not recommended that a mandate for implementation of this technology in all semiautomatic handguns in the state of California be made.” Results of the study were consistent with earlier peer-reviewed tests published by the Association of Firearms and Toolmarks Examiners. Firearms examiner George Krivosta, of the Suffolk County, N.Y., crime lab, found that the “vast majority” of “microstamped” characters in the alphanumeric serial number couldn’t be read on “any of the expended cartridge cases generated and examined.”
- “Microstampings” are easily removed. In the tests noted above, common household tools were used to obliterate serial numbers in less than a minute.
- Most gun crimes cannot be solved by “microstamping” and do not require “microstamping” to be solved. In most gun crimes no shots are fired, so there are no cartridge cases for police to recover. Also, a large percentage of guns used in crime don’t eject fired cartridge cases. Notwithstanding TV shows that portray crime-solving as impossible without advanced technology, most crimes can be solved by traditional means. For example, of murders in which the victim-offender relationship is known, 78 percent involve family members, friends and other acquaintances. Only 22 percent involve strangers.• Most criminals get guns through unregulated channels. According to the BATFE, 88 percent of the guns traced by the agency are acquired through unregulated channels, and the average time between a traced gun’s acquisition and its recovery by police is 10.8 years. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, most criminals get guns via theft or the black market.
- “Microstamping” would increase gun thefts, home invasions and burglaries, and expand the black market in guns. Criminals would be further encouraged to get guns illegally, if guns bought legally would be linked to them in a computerized database.
- Most guns do not automatically eject fired cartridge cases. These include revolvers, as well as pump actions, bolt actions, lever actions and several other common gun types.
• Only a small percentage of guns would be “microstamped.” There are nearly 300 million guns in the country. New guns sold annually account for only 2 percent of that total, and new semi-automatic pistols less than 0.5 percent.
- Most violent crimes don’t involve guns. According to the FBI, three quarters of violent crimes, including one third of murders and three fifths of robberies, are committed without guns.
- “Microstamping” would waste money better spent on traditional crime-fighting and crime-solving efforts. The cost of a computerized database to track “microstamped” handguns would be passed along to all consumers, including law enforcement agencies.
- Criminals could obtain fired cases from practice ranges, and use them to “seed” crime scenes, to confuse investigators.
- Even if it were technologically feasible, cost-effective, and useful for law enforcement purposes, a “microstamping” scheme would be utterly useless without a corresponding gun registration law, which would be strongly opposed by America’s gun owners.
While the results of the study propose in this bill cannot be predicted, studies mandated by Congress on other unproven schemes endorsed by gun control supporters have concluded that such schemes were (or would be) ineffective or counterproductive. These include (1) the Urban Institute’s study of the 1994 federal “assault weapon” ban, which found that the firearms and ammunition magazines affected by the ban had never been used in more than a fraction of all gun murders; (2) the Treasury Department’s study of ammunition, which concluded that then-Rep. Charles Schumer’s (D-N.Y.) proposal to ban commonplace hunting, target shooting and self-defense ammunition as “armor piercing” would potentially have an adverse impact on private gun owners and law enforcement officers’ safety alike; and (3) the National Academy of Sciences’ study that rejected the Clinton Administration’s proposal to embed microscopic “taggants” in gunpowder.
Additionally, studies by the Library of Congress, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have concluded there is no evidence that gun control reduces criminal misuse of guns in the United States or in other countries. Other studies have shown a correlation between relaxation of gun laws and a lowering of violent crime rates, conclusions borne out by the 50 percent reduction in the nation’s murder rate since 1991, as the number of privately owned firearms concurrently increased by a third, to an all-time high.