Two Wisconsin lawmakers and the National Rifle Association hoisted red flags this week over what they say is a coming legislative proposal to mandate so-called handgun microstamping in Wisconsin.
The goal of microstamping is to track a firearm from spent bullets by etching the gun’s make, model, and serial number on the weapon’s firing pin, which would copy that information to the cartridge when the gun was fired.
* “Micro-stamping” has repeatedly failed in tests. In 2006, a study at the University of California (Davis) concluded, “At the current time it is not recommended that a mandate for implementation of this technology in all semiautomatic handguns in the state of California be made.”2 Results of the study were consistent with earlier peer-reviewed tests published by the Association of Firearms and Toolmarks Examiners.3 Firearms examiner George Krivosta, of the Suffolk County, N.Y., crime lab, found that the “vast majority” of “micro-stamped” characters in the alphanumeric serial number couldn’t be read on “any of the expended cartridge cases generated and examined.”
* “Micro-stampings” are easily removed. In the tests noted above, firing pins were removed in minutes, and serial numbers were obliterated in less than a minute, with household tools.
* Most gun crimes cannot be solved by “micro-stamping,” or do not require “micro-stamping” to be solved. Most gun crimes do not involve shots being fired, thus there are no cartridge cases for police to recover. Also, a large percentage of gun crimes involve guns that don’t eject fired cartridge cases. Notwithstanding TV shows that portray crime-solving as impossible without high-technology, most crimes can be solved by traditional means. For example, of murders in which the victim-offender relationship is known, 77% involve family members, friends and other acquaintances. Only 23% involve strangers.4
* Most criminals get guns through unregulated channels. According to the BATFE, 88% of crime guns are acquired through unregulated channels, and the median time between a crime gun’s acquisition and its use in crime is 6.6 years.5 According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, most criminals get guns via theft or the black market.6
* “Micro-stamping” would increase gun thefts, home invasions and burglaries, and expand the black market in guns. Criminals would be further encouraged to get guns illegally, if guns bought legally would be linked to them in a computerized database.
* Most guns do not automatically eject fired cartridge cases. Revolvers can fire five or more rounds without fired cases being ejected. Pump-action, bolt-action, lever-action and other types of guns eject fired cases only if the user manually operates the gun’s unloading mechanism.
* Only a small percentage of guns would be “micro-stamped.” There are 250+ million guns in the country.7 New guns sold annually account for only 2% of that total, and new semi-automatic pist