NSSF: California Microstamping Requirements "Impossible" to Satisfy

Groups that have been fighting California’s microstamping mandate since 2007 say the tech simply doesn't exist.

The state wants a gun's make, model, and serial numbers stamped on two separate parts of every casing ejected from a semi-automatic handgun.
The state wants a gun's make, model, and serial numbers stamped on two separate parts of every casing ejected from a semi-automatic handgun. photo from guns.comweb photo

Two firearms groups have filed a new salvo of lawsuits against California’s gun laws, specifically its microstamping requirements, saying that what the decidedly anti-gun state government wants simply isn’t physically possible.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) and Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufactuers' Institute (SAAMI) have argued to the state supreme court in a filing last month that the state's 2007 law requireing new semi-automatic handguns sold in the state to have the capability to microstamp shells is something that cannot be done.

It wasn’t possible in 2007, and it’s not possible in 2017, the filing says.

In the interim, the state has reduced the number of handguns allowed for sale in the state to the point that the industry has lost $183 million annually since 2013 in missed gun sales to California residents, according to this story from guns.com.

The state’s current roster of approved handguns lists just 504 models of semi-automatic pistols, compared to 867 in early 2014.

This is what the state has been doing: older models are continually decertified, but new models, which, of course, lack microstamping capabilities, are not approved, so the list steadily shrinks.

Microstamping alone is a nearly impossible feat, but the California requirements are even more ridiculous.

California adopted a microstamping requirement as part of a 2007 package of anti-gun legislation. It was delayed until 2013, because the technology to make the process viable simply didn’t exist, when Attorney General Kamala Harris announced it was finally ready. It wasn’t.

A a consequence, the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) and the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute (SAAMI) brought a lawsuit against the state, saying that the legal requirement for a semi-auto handgun to mark every cartridge with a laundry list of information, including make and model of pistol, as well as the serial number was “impossible to accomplish” and that the tech has never been proven in actual field conditions. The suit also states that microstamping would be extremely easy for a criminal to defeat.

The case was dismissed in 2015 but on appeal last December, a three-judge panel found that NSSF and SAAMI have “a right to present evidence to prove their claim,” the story says. This March, the state’s Supreme Court voted 6-0 to review the matter.

But what makes California’s law even worse than a national microstamping bill that has been proposed, is that it requires “dual placement.”

Microstamping, in theory, would mean all pistols sold by licensed dealers would stamp a code on ammunition casings when fired that would include data like the make and model of the pistol, plus the serial number. That code would, in theory, allow police to connect spent casings at crime scenes to the gun that fired them, though it has never been tested in the field. All the character representing this information would have to be imprinted in the primer of the casing by the firing pin on every round. Not only that, but these character would have to remain perfectly legible after thousands of rounds. It would also mean replacing a firing pin on a given handgun would be nearly impossible.

California wants all that information stamped on two separate parts of the casing. The requirement was meant to circumvent attempts to swap out or modify a gun’s firing pin.

The NSSF and SAAMI contend that there is no expert that can be found “to show that dual placement microstamping technology can ever be developed for semi-automatic pistols.”

It’s akin to legislators passing a law that says all new cars must be capable of battery-powered flight by 2020, without consulting even one engineer to see if such a thing is even possible to build let alone mandate.

All of this amounts to a piece of legislation that only serves to limit the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.

“It is not the wisdom of the legislative goal, but rather the impossible method the Legislature has chosen to achieve that goal, that lies at the heart of this case,” the filing says.