Feuer’s Microstamping Bill Is Pointless


[This is the second post in a 5 part series] – The first bill I’m going to talk about is being proposed by Assemblyman Mike Feuer (42nd district in West Hollywood), unfortunately the name or text of the bill hasn’t been released yet but NBC4 says that it “would require all new semiautomatic handguns to be equipped with microstamping technology by the start of 2010.” Since Feuer took the seat previously occupied by Assembly Member Koretz, and Koretz introduced a mictrostamping bill in 2005 it’s probably a safe bet that much of this bill is a carry over from that one. Koretz’s AB 352 was rejected by the Assembly, in fact the co-author of that version, Assemblyman Yee, helped burry it. In part because the proven technology it requires doesn’t exist.

The argument for this is that shell casings found at the scene of a crime would contain a stamp (imprinted by the gun at the time the bullet was fired) that would tell law enforcement who owned the gun that fired it. The short version of the argument against this is that the technology for this does not currently exist – that’s right there is not a single working prototype of how this would work. Yet, even if it did it would be extremely easy to defeat. If you assume it existed and worked, it would rely on extremely small parts that could be easily changed or modified (criminals regularly file off serial numbers on guns, why wouldn’t they file off these stamps?), and parts that would wear over time making the markings unreadable or worse, incorrect. It would also require significant funding to train people how to work with and store this info since nothing currently exists along these lines. And that’s assuming you have a shell, revolvers do not leave shell casings and shell catchers are readily available. Even worse, since shells can be reused (meaning multiple stamps on a single shell), and empty shells are easily obtained at gun ranges the chance of false/planted leads is very high and would waste a lot of time and money researching those bad leads. Additionally, this bill would create a whole new black market for guns from neighboring states which do not require this technology.

Of course, criminals are already buying guns out of state so this bill would have no impact there. In fact, the extremely anti-gun Violence Prevention Coalition of Los Angeles cites a US Department of Justice survey from 2000 stating that 80% of criminals obtained guns from illegal sources, and another 12% obtained them from including friends, family, or a purchase on the street. If 92% 80% of criminals use guns not purchased though registered, legal gun dealers, then where is the logic that adding more regulations to what those dealers can sell will reduce crime? This bill will not effect criminals at all, but what it will do, is negatively impact the legal, law abiding gun owners in CA who would be forced to pay the cost passed down to them by gun manufacturers being forced to make special products only for California, as well as the tax payers who will be forced to pay the cost of training officers and maintaining databases of info that will be largely useless in actual crime solving.

Other Posts In This Series
Part 2: Feuer’s Microstamping Bill Is Pointless
Part 3: California’s CCW Licenses Are Too Easy To Fake
Part 4: The Art of Turning Victims Into Criminals
Part 5: de Le√≥n’s Bill is Misdirected – Who Can Buy Ammo Is More Important

7 Replies to “Feuer’s Microstamping Bill Is Pointless”

  1. Well written Sean. There is always a way to defeat and legislation and technology both are done in by creative criminals.

    How about adopting a law that Nevada enacted in the early 1980’s. It was called “use a gun go to jail”. Any crime committed with a gun present was an automatic ADDITIONAL sentence added on for 25 years. No possibility for parole nor was it served concurrent with the sentence for the crime. It worked for a bit in slowing down the criminal growth.

  2. Frazgo

    Good point…Very good point…I would love to see Nevada type legislation here. Punish the people who deserve punishment.

  3. Hey Sean, you said that 80% of criminals obtain guns from illegal means and 12% get them through family, friends, or purchased on the street. Unless I’m reading wrong, this is incorrect, because the US DOJ survey you link to says:

    According to the 1997 Survey of State Prison Inmates in the US, among those possessing a gun, the source of the gun was a flea market or gun show for fewer than 2%, a retail store or pawnshop for about 12%; family, friends, a street buy, or an illegal source for 80%. (US Dept of Justice, National Crime Victimization Survey 2000)

    So unless I’m reading this wrong, 80% of inmates surveyed said they got their guns from family, friends, a street buy, or an illegal source.

    I wish they didn’t lump all four of these together. Obtaining guns through family, friends, and in some cases, on the street is different, because it may start with a legal purchase through a gun dealer — a so called “straw purchase.” Whereas the “illegal sources” US DOJ refers to were probably illegal to begin with (guns illegally tafficked into the country, for example).

    While it’s definitely more elegant to simply adopt a law like Nevada’s that involves an automatic sentence for using a gun in a crime, this would mean a substantial cost in providing public defenders, housing inmates, etc. Either way, legitimate gun owners and the public will pay taxes or new fees to pay for all that.

    So then the question is, which is a better deterent? Increasing a sentence for a criminal who already has a disregard for the law, or making family, friends, etc. think twice about buying a gun for someone and then get legally mixed up in a crime they committed?

    I have no idea how stamping bullets would work, given the technical challenges. But the underlying goal of the bill is correct: creating a stronger deterent that puts unethical or ethically-ambivalent gun dealers and straw purchasers on the hook. There is so little that puts them on the hook under current law, both federal and state.

  4. Sanjay – Good catch, my mistake on how I read that, and I corrected the post to show the right numbers. I’m not arguing with the intent of the law, and agree that it’s all about deterring crime but there has to be some reason to it, you can’t just make something up and assume it will work. With this situation specifically, the only thing clear is that it will cause considerable burden to law abiding gun buyers, and just speculation that it will make any difference in stopping crime. That’s not a good step to take. If it’s going to have a negative effect on law abiding citizens it needs to have a proven result on stopping crime – since this doesn’t even exist, it’s hardly proven.

  5. Sanjay says:

    “While it’s definitely more elegant to simply adopt a law like Nevada’s that involves an automatic sentence for using a gun in a crime, this would mean a substantial cost in providing public defenders, housing inmates, etc. Either way, legitimate gun owners and the public will pay taxes or new fees to pay for all that.”

    Sanjay is basically suggesting that we should not punish criminals proportionally with their crime, because it costs taxpayers money to increase their jail sentences. Why not take his ideas further, and reduce, or even nullify, their jail time? We could save even more money for the taxpayers by closing down all our courts and police forces. Uh oh, anyone see anything wrong with this?

  6. Sanjay’s idea about trivializing criminal acts is being tried out in the UK right now. Late in 06 66 specific offenses, including sex with underage persons, “mild” burglary, “mild” assault and other crimes against property and people were put on a list, for the average UK cop to pat the little perp on the head, tell him enough was enough and to get on home to his mum for being a bad little man.

    I agree, if saving money is the key. Let’s just abandon enforcing any laws. I am sure things will be fine. Then I could carry concealed, this would be a good thing, an improvement I think. I just wonder a little that the criminals will start shooting first, talking later. Like NRA people do all the time…I mean everybody knows that happens, those beasts…

    Calling 911 would be unnecessary, as the police would be disbanded except maybe for a small squad to clean up after genocidal level mass murders-we can’t ignore it all, y’know, we’re a civil soceity and oh-so-proud of it.

    Someone comes in the house, pop ’em, toss the corpse into the street for the local dustmen and clean the rug. Actually it would be simpler just to pop them on the street, less strain on the lower back.

    Of course, Sanjay, you probably didn’t know that the UK has the highest violent crime per capita of any country in the “developed” world. Didn’t know that gun crime is rising happily, with little trouble to pick up a handgun in alleys or pubs. This in a country that bans POCKETKINIVES and anything more serious than that, including handguns, and where killing in self-defense gets you a prison term. It may be safer inside, anyway. Heaven forbid you should really do some research before you open your mouth and prescribe solutions. How unmodern to understand the subject, except in having an “emotional truth” about it, before forming an opinion.

    Oh, and did I say that the UK is an ISLAND, surrounded by countries which also have very restrictive rules on handgun possession? You see how mightily effective the laws are, don’t you? They aren’t, though, which supports your thesis we ought to eliminate the laws.

    Or just maybe some of them, like the CCW laws in CA (make CA join the rest of the country and institute a “shall issue” licensing scheme). At least then law-abiding citizens will be on an equal footing with criminals. You surely would support equality, wouldn’t you? Or should criminals have an advantage, since the working stiffs should support them through taxes and direct appropriation of property? Every criminal is just a misunderstood lad. The Brits can tell you about that.

    Maybe you have plenty of money, Sanjay, so you can buy all the security you want to save yourself from the results of your ideas. Dianne Feinstein does.

    Barbara Boxer, Nancy Pelosi (who sports necklaces worth more than many people make in a year, if you bothered to watch the SOTUA), Mike Bloomberg, et. al. What do you care about the unwashed who fetch your groceries and might get shot up for doing it? Just hire another one, big boy, and eat something out of the freezer tonight, instead of what you planned to have delivered.

    Maybe you don’t have any “skin in the game”,. which makes you think you can judge better than someone who does. Well, walk in my shoes, and get death threats for 14 months. Then come and talk to me, boyo, about law enforcement.

    This post is very sarcastic, but I don’t apologize. Your basic thought is not worthy of an apology. Go out and get your stuff stolen, face somebody trying to rob you, see your factory burned to the ground.

    I don’t seek revenge, but there are some people out there who need to be taken out of circulation. They are amoral, not civil, and do not deserve to prey upon the people they do. You can support doing something about it, or close the blinds so you don’t have to see it and pontificate that punishing criminals is just a waste of your tax dollar.

    Such pontification just shows how little you know in real experience, and how little you care about the people around you.

    Apologize to you? I think not.

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