NSSF sues Golden State to block microstamping mandate

The trade association for the firearms and ammunition industry sued the state of California for enacting what it asserts are inoperable microstamping laws that deny citizens the opportunity to exercise their Second Amendment rights.

“We expect to prevail because the law is irrational.  It is unlawful to force a company to comply with a law that is impossible to comply with,” said Senior Vice President Lawrence G. Keane, general counsel to National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade group based in Newtown, Conn.

“Microstamping requires a gun maker to put microscopic characters on the firing pin which are imprinted on the spent-primer or on the case and when the case is ejected because it has been fired, police could use electronic microscopes to read the characters and identify the make, model and serial number of the gun,” said Sam Paredes president of Gun Owners of California a non-profit lobbying organization formed to protect and preserve Second Amendment rights in California.

The technology is defective and politically motivated, he said. “Microstamping is a law of political correctness.”

The 10,000-plus group of firearm manufacturers, distributors, retailers, shooting ranges and sportsmen’s organizations is the first named plaintiff in a lawsuit filed on Jan. 9 in Fresno Superior Court that moves to enjoin enforcement of provisions of state law that forces gun manufacturers to implement microstamping on all newly developed semi-automatic pistols.

Although the state legislature enacted the “Unsafe Handgun Act” and then-governor Arnold A. Schwarzenegger signed it into law in 2007, scholarly publications and a number of relevant studies demonstrate that the technology is premature, should not be mandated, and needs further study, said Keane.

“As we said in 2007, independent studies have shown that microstamping cannot be complied with because it doesn’t work,” he said. “Today’s technology does not allow a manufacturer to consistently allot the mandated information onto the cartridge case.”

It has been demonstrated that a criminal can take a piece of sand paper or a simple emery board and strip off the required stamping from the firing pin, he said.  “The law cannot be complied with by the manufacturers.”

California’s Department of Justice has an expansive view of what constitutes a new pistol model, he said. “If any part of the pistol is modified through the manufacturing process, the DOJ decrees that it is a ‘new model’ and therefore in order for it to be put on the roster and be authorized for sale, it has to be re-casted to comply with all of the requirements of the law which now includes microstamping.”

There is no manufacturing company in the country that is making microstamping-capacity firearms, he said. U.S.-based leader in firearm manufacturing and design Smith & Wesson issued a statement last week indicating that it does not and will not include microstamping in its firearms.

“A number of studies have indicated that microstamping is unreliable, serves no safety purpose, is cost prohibitive and, most importantly, is not proven to aid in preventing or solving crimes,” the Smith & Wesson statement said.

Placing unrealistic burdens on gun manufactures hurts the consumer and creates a market that cannot thrive, said Keane.  “When manufactures are prevented from making newer and better products, consumers are denied the opportunity to buy a safer, more reliable, and more durable firearm.”

Over time the law becomes a gun ban, he said. “A gun ban is now taking root as more and more manufacturers who have fewer and fewer firearms stop selling handguns to California’s consumers who only get to buy the old handguns.”

Keane said since it is unlikely microstamping provisions in the law would be overturned by the 120-member state legislature, victory in court becomes that more important.

Paredes said, the state legislature might say the law will help fight crime, however all studies show that microstamping is flawed, ineffective and inconsistent.

“A criminal cannot be prevented from changing a firing pin or obliterating the marking,” he said.  “Indentations to imprint these characters are one twenty-fifth the thickness of a human hair.”

The vast majority of gun crimes are committed with stolen guns, said Paredes who has been involved with GOC for over 30 years.

“Criminals don’t care if they have microstamping,” he said.  “It’s not their guns, they didn’t buy or register it in their name – they stole it.”

Operating costs and potential liability is unfairly misdirected to legal gun dealers, he said.  “If a gun was in a manufacturing process error or used in an accident or in the commission of a crime, liability that is immensely expensive is extended to the manufacturer.”

Even though the law requires that at least two companies have the ability to use the microstamping technology, there are no companies that are selling capable laser engravers with the programs required to generate the microstamping information, he said.

“There are thousands and thousands of companies that have access to the technology who can provide it to the industry,” said Paredes.  “Yet there are zero companies that are set up and organized to provide the technology.”

California is stuck with old firearm products, he said.  “No new technologies including microstamping will come into this state as long as this law is in place.”

There is no company in the world that uses or applies microstamping, he said.

“It is technology in theory only and it doesn’t make sense,” said Parades.  “If you do not use this ‘Alice in Wonderland’ technology you cannot sell guns in California.”

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