Shooting Sports News

California “Microstamping” Law Kicks in, May Affect New Handguns

A recently-passed law in California requiring most handguns to microstamp ammunition may effectively ban the ownership of newly-made handguns in the state.

A recently-passed law in California requiring most handguns to microstamp ammunition may effectively ban the ownership of newly-made handguns in the state.

A law signed by former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2007 will finally be seeing the light of day, much to the dismay of the state’s gun owners. According to the Associated Press, the controversial law will require that all new semiautomatic handguns be manufactured or equipped with “microstamping” technology, which imprints a weapon’s specifics and serial number onto cartridges as they are fired. Stamped cartridges would allow police to easily trace evidence left behind at crime scenes. The law is the first of its kind to go into effect and is praised by its supporters as a major step forward in identifying illegal gun use.

“This very important technology will help us as law enforcement in identifying and locating people who improperly and illegally use and discharge firearms,” said Attorney General Kamala Harris, who announced the resolution of lingering patent issues that had kept the law from taking effect.

Back in the 90s, engineer Todd Lizotte played a pivotal role in developing the technology, but later abandoned its patent claims. With language in the law preventing it from being enabled while private patents on the technology were in place, gun rights advocates successfully delayed its enactment by extending the lapsing patent. Calguns Foundation, a California gun owners’ organization, had previously paid a $555 fee to do so. Pro-Second Amendment groups believe that the microstamping requirement will turn away gun makers from California as a buyer’s market.

“The firearms industry in California, in respect to sales, would be limited,” Brandon Combs, Calguns Foundation’s executive director, told OutdoorHub. “Manufacturers simply can’t comply with the laws, therefore Californians will have fewer guns to buy.”

If gun makers find the new strictures too cost-prohibitive, California may see no new semiautomatic handguns in the near future, resulting in an effective ban. Along with the National Rifle Association, Calguns is planning to challenge the law in court as well as conducting their own investigation into the patent hold.

Opponents of microstamping technology also argue that feature is flawed and prone to break or be worn down. The most likely gun part to feature the microstamp, the firing pin, is easily alterable and replaceable. Critics also point to the fact that the technology is early stage, single-source and has not been tested independently.

The new law will not affect the more than 1,200 firearms currently in the state’s official roster.

“The microstamping law is part of a larger collection of laws that are related to handguns,” Combs said. We consider it an outright ban on new firearms [...] there is also an annual re-certification payment that manufacturers have to make in order to maintain firearms on a list of what the state calls the ‘roster’ for handguns certified for sale. Firearms that are on the roster today are grandfathered and will not have to comply with the new law. All firearms moving forward to be placed on the roster will have to included the microstamping technology in addition to a loaded chamber indicator, magazine disconnect, and so forth.”

Image from Augustas Didžgalvis on the Wikimedia Commons

Any views or opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect those of OutdoorHub. Comments on this article reflect the sole opinions of their writers.
  • davis98

    Like no one would ever think of policing their brass now would they ? That is one of the most idiotic ideas I have heard of yet. But coming from California what do es one expect? What about a revolver?

  • Sunsetpalms

    What is to stop someone from grabbing some brass at the range and dropping at a crime scene. Glad i don’t live in California.

    • Mike

      That is a very very wise statement. crime scenes will Be Littered with brass from people who have never been in that area.

  • KatrinaAnon

    I wonder if the state and federal agencies are exempted from this law? My spouse wants to visit Kalifornia, but it will be without me.

  • HorseTeethSam

    As easy as it is to replace or modify a firing pin… what idiots…

  • Jim

    Technically, the Government cannot force an independent manufacture to alter or change its products in any way for the purpose of sabotaging the sales of that business. All of the gun manufactures need to get together and challenge the constitutionality of government interference in private enterprise.

  • Pensacola fisher

    eBay special: Firing Pin Etching kit – do it yourself ID removal kit. Takes less than 10 minutes to completely remove any firing pin serial numbers. Only $9.95

    Really California? Do license plates on cars keep criminals from steeling them and using them in crimes? Nope.

    Never been to California, never want to go.

  • Johnny Golfr

    California is following the same path with guns that they did with air quality and CARB. Trying to enact laws that implement half baked technology. And residents there wonder why their home state is essentially bankrupt?? So now criminals will look for old guns without this technology….DUH…..

    Oh, and let’s not forget logic…what about reloaded ammo? Or, as someone else noted, picking up brass from the crime scene and replacing it with brass from the range??

    Note to self….NEVER leave your brass behind!!

    Note to LifeLock….you now have a business opportunity in The United Socialist Republic of California – protecting law abiding citizens from having their gun’s identity stolen!!!

  • Mr. Hush

    I don’t understand why this is such a big deal. The amount of wear and tear that microstamp can take before it becomes illegible is going to be very minor. Normal use and cleaning will likely render it useless in a few thousand rounds anyway, but even if it didn’t, I can’t think of anybody but criminals that would be worried. Besides, since there’s no database of gun buyers, the current record keeping system (unless CA has something more stringent than the feds) doesn’t allow quick searches of gun owners by S/N anyway. The most likely scenario would be that they compare S/N of a gun that a suspect has in their possesion, which isn’t that different from forensic comparisons anyway.

    • Mark G.

      One of the problems is the extra costs involved to microstamp them, making the gun more expensive.

    • conservative

      All handguns and soon all long guns are registered at purchase with California DOJ. I would certainly call that a data base. Now do you see why it’s a big deal?

  • evlgreg

    I predict a resurgence in revolvers. I half expect Kel-tec to make some crazy looking 25 round cylinder for a 357 magnum. The lawmakers know full well what they are doing, they are not stupid. They are slowly banning firearms feature by feature and hurdle by hurdle. Pretty soon it will have to have micro stamping, fingerprint lock, and GPS transmitter to notify police any time the gun is discharged by serial number and location.
    Criminals will still just get guns from south of the border and the black market will be booming (literally)

  • notsospecial1

    Right, because criminals always buy their guns brand new at gun stores. Great logic guys.

  • max

    really davis98… but you know, some people are stupid, lets see, gang banger wouldn’t in a drive by, a non-pro hit man wouldn’t, and others….oh but wait, these people don’t get back ground checks from the truck of the car either. Arnold, i don’t think “You will be Back”, good thing you are getting back into movies, you may need a job.

  • BillMM1

    15 seconds with a Dremel tool (or similar) and a polishing wheel would render the firing pin clean, shiny, and numberless. Yep, this law will really stop crime.

  • facepalm

    …because criminals so readily obey laws…

  • aserrato

    Well, we do have a firearms registration DATA BASE here in CA (DOJ in other words) whoever has a gun here knows about it …right?
    I live in CA but it is not going to be for too long anyway, I think that laws here work more for criminals than for law abiding citizens.

  • Soren Custer

    I need to get out of California!

  • Soren Custer

    didn’t u guys know….? criminals always use new guns… note the sarcasm………arrrghhhh… get me out of this state….

  • Joe_Right

    OK, California legislators want to ban as many semi automatic weapons as they can. I get this. Australia did the same thing. How EXACTLY does micro stamping work ? The slide on a semi auto is NOT regulated by the BATF. One can mail order a slide and have it sent to your home address ! You can buy a slide at a gun show or worse yet a fellow gun owner.. I think you can buy these on EBAY !!! If your really paranoid, buy a revolver and learn how to speed load !!.The idiots are working overtime in the California legislation.

  • Master Flash

    How can this work when the claim is that there is no firearm registry?