New Jersey AG Triggers State's Microstamping Law

AP Photo/Michael Conroy

New Jersey Attorney General Matthew Platkin's proclamation that he's found microstamping to be viable for use in commercially-sold semi-automatic handguns won't result in non-microstamped firearms being pulled off of store shelves.. at least not yet. But the AG's announcement does trigger the state's microstamping law, which mandates that once a microstamped firearm has been approved for inclusion in the state's  microstamping roster, Garden State gun stores will be required to have at least one pistol from the roster available for sale in their stores. 


Given that there are currently no manufacturers deploying microstamping, which uses a unique code imprinted on a firing pin to stamp a marking on every round of ammunition that's fired, I doubt that Platkin's declaration is going to have any impact at all in New Jersey, at least as long as the current law remains in effect. 

The real question is how long it will be before New Jersey Democrats mandate that only firearms that have microstamped firing pins can be sold in the state, as New York has done. Starting in July, the New York State Police is supposed to "engage in and complete an investigation to certify the technological viability of microstamping-enabled handguns and certify or decline to certify that microstamping-enabled handguns are technologically viable." If the state police decide, as Platkin has, that the technology is good to go, then the clock starts ticking, and within four years it will then be illegal for any gun shop in the Empire State to sell any semiautomatic handgun that has not been verified as a microstamping-enabled handgun. 

Platkin began his own "investigation" in August of last year, so if the New York State Police follow a similar time frame we could be looking at a ban on the sale of most semi-automatic pistols in the state by the end of 2028. And I suspect that once the countdown has begun in New York, anti-gun lawmakers in Trenton are going to be keen on amending the state's current microstamping law to mirror their neighbor's. Why wouldn't anti-gun Democrats try to impose a ban on the vast majority of handguns sold today, especially if they can make the argument that they're only requiring a "safety" feature? 


After all, New Jersey's original "smart gun" law also required that, once a smart gun had come to market, only those types of handgun would be able to be sold by FFLs after a three-year grace period expired. Legislators in Trenton revised the law in 2019, in large part because they feared that the mandate was hindering the development of "smart" guns, and replaced it with a law virtually identical to the microstamping mandate; once the Attorney General has approved a "smart gun" for sale, every FFL in the state will be required to carry one in stock.

I'd say the "smart gun" law is also likely to be revised once Platkin certifies a pistol for inclusion on the state's roster, but the microstamping laws in both New Jersey and New York pose a more immediate threat to gun owners. 

As for Platkin's assertion that microstamping is a viable technology, he's also ignoring the fact that it's easily defeated. Forget that studies have concluded that a microstamped firing pin leaves alphanumeric codes that are "frequently illegible" and therefore useless from a law enforcement perspective. The firing pin itself can be swapped out or defaced in just a few seconds. And what happens if a firing pin wears out and needs to be replaced under New Jersey's microstamping law? Clearly you can't have two firing pins with the same "unique" set of numbers and letters, so does the entire pistol have to be junked if the firing pin breaks? 


Microstamping will never be ready for prime time because it's a fundamentally flawed technology, but with anti-gunners like Platkin intent on subjecting gun owners to a microstamping mandate it could pose an enormous threat to legal gun owners. Criminals who steal their guns or acquire them by illicit means, not so much. But as we all know by now, these efforts aren't about stopping the criminal misuse of firearms. It's about preventing us from exercising our fundamental civil right to keep and bear arms. 


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