Can Microstamping solve the carnage problem in US ?

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Q. What is microstamping?

A. Microstamping is a technology whereby every handgun imprints the bullets it fires with a unique serial code that will allow law enforcement to match bullet casings found at crime scenes with the individual gun that fired them.

Q. How does the technology work?

A. New semi-automatic handguns are fitted with a special firing pin during manufacture that imprints a unique alphanumeric code onto shell casings when the bullets are fired. The codes are linked to each handgun’s serial number.

Q. Why do we need microstamping?

A. According to F.B.I. data, no arrests are made in nearly 40 percent of murder investigations across the country because police lack the evidence they need (Uniform Crime Reports, Table: Percent of Crimes Cleared by Arrest or Exceptional Means). Of the almost 15,000 murders committed in 2007, more than 68 percent were committed with firearms (Uniform Crime Reports, Table 7). Law enforcement needs every tool possible to track down gun criminals and solve crimes. Microstamping technology will help law enforcement identify and apprehend armed criminals before they inflict more harm on others, including innocent bystanders.

Q. How will microstamping help solve crimes?

A. If law enforcement officers can quickly learn the serial number of the gun used in a crime, even without recovering the actual gun, they will be able to track down the gun’s owner, or at least identify its original owner, which could be a critical lead in solving the crime. When investigating drive-by shootings, for example, the only evidence police recover at the crime scene is often spent bullet casings. If a bullet casing can be used to identify the gun used in the crime, law enforcement can use that lead to track down the criminal before more lives are lost.

Q. How much does it cost?

A. Cost estimates for the specialized firing pins range from 50 cents to $6.00 and would be borne by the manufacturer (Press release, NY Assemblywoman Schimel, 2008). No new databases or examiners would be required, so there would be no cost to state governments. Additionally, the technology’s co-inventor has agreed to offer the technology royalty-free to any gun manufacturer.

Q. Is the technology reliable?

A. Yes. Independent testing by a forensic examiner has shown that the engraved characters on the firing pins are extremely durable and will not wear down over time. A firearm equipped with microstamping technology that had been test-fired more 5800 times still imprinted clearly readable characters at a live-fire demonstration in Albany, New York in 2008 (Press release, NY Assemblywoman Schimel, 2008).

Q. Can a criminal defeat the technology?

A. Tests have shown the technology, now in its third generation, to be highly tamper resistant. Even if a criminal were able to remove the markings off the tip of the firing pin, there are microscopic redundant back-up markings that would still imprint the code onto the casing. Most criminals would not know how to find the technology, which is invisible to the naked eye, let alone defeat it.

Q. How will microstamping impact law-abiding gun owners?

A. Microstamping would not impact law-abiding gun owners. The process for purchasing a handgun will be the same as the current process. No new registration or permitting will be required. In addition, routine maintenance and cleaning of a firearm will have no effect on the technology. Microstamping is simply another important tool for law enforcement to use in solving handgun crimes and preventing gun trafficking.

Q. Will microstamping reduce crime even when criminals get guns illegally?

A. Criminals frequently obtain their firearms via people with clean records, known as straw buyers, who they recruit to buy new handguns for them at gun dealers. But once straw buyers start to understand that a crime committed with a trafficked gun could be easily traced to them, they will think twice before buying new handguns for gun traffickers. This will help cut off an important source of crime guns. 

By reducing the illegal flow of handguns into the illegal market, criminals may have reduced access to guns. Microstamping is a valuable tool, like fingerprinting and DNA testing, to help police investigate, arrest and convict people who use semiautomatic handguns in crimes and to deter straw buyers who supply gun traffickers. Microstamping will provide law enforcement with more robust crime gun data, which will help them identify crime gun trafficking channels.

Q. Will microstamping reduce crime even when criminals get guns illegally?

A. Criminals frequently obtain their firearms via people with clean records, known as straw buyers, who they recruit to buy new handguns for them at gun dealers. But once straw buyers start to understand that a crime committed with a trafficked gun could be easily traced to them, they will think twice before buying new handguns for gun traffickers. This will help cut off an important source of crime guns. 

By reducing the illegal flow of handguns into the illegal market, criminals may have reduced access to guns. Microstamping is a valuable tool, like fingerprinting and DNA testing, to help police investigate, arrest and convict people who use semiautomatic handguns in crimes and to deter straw buyers who supply gun traffickers. Microstamping will provide law enforcement with more robust crime gun data, which will help them identify crime gun trafficking channels.

Courtesy : Brady Campaign to prevent gun violence

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One response »

  1. Q. Were any gun manufacturers, gun owners, or rights advocacy groups consulted in the writing of this FAQ?

    A. No. These people would tell you that there are several fatal flaws with the concept of such technology. First, the cost to gun manufacturers to create a unique stamping system would be much higher, even cost prohibitive, because of the need to retool their unique firing pin machines, and to set up a method by which any replacement parts would have to be customized with the serial number of each gun. The cost is high enough to where some manufacturers have already stated they will no longer sell in markets where this technology is required due to the costs, creating a defacto gun ban for those citizens. Gun owners very often have guns that are almost 100 years old, it is already difficult to find parts for these older guns. Any mandate to replace the pin would render these guns contraband. On guns with the stamp, over time the microstamp does wear off. For some avid shooters, the stamp could disappear within months. Owners would also have to worry about manufacturers sending the wrong firing pins to the wrong owners, mis-stamping cases (not bullets as indicated above) or being falsely implemented if their number winds up in a criminal’s gun. Firing pins are easily replacable, meaning criminals must only know how to break down their guns to replace it with an unmarked or other-marked firing pin, foiling the system. A tiny bit of weld could cover (not etch out) any stamp. Shooting ranges have large pails full of spent brass that shooters discard. A criminal could take a handful of these stamped casings and spread them at crime scenes, implementing one or more innocent parties. Revolvers do not eject brass, so simply using a revolver saves a criminal any worry of this system at all.

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