Friday, January 24, 2014

Microstamping Drives Firearms Manufacturers out of California

Smith & Wesson has joined Sturm, Ruger & Co. Inc. in abandoning California as a market for new semi-auto handgun sales.  The cause is the microstamping law going into effect this year.  On its website, Smith & Wesson states:  "Smith & Wesson 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."

While Smith & Wesson is right, the law is going to be very successful in terms of its actual purpose.  Anyone with any familiarity with firearms realizes microstamping won't solve crimes, and I'll explain more below.  Fortunately for the lawmakers involved, the plan was never to solve crimes, but rather to make firearms more expensive and harder to buy in California for lawful gun owners.  Mission accomplished.

What is microstamping?  The firing pin of a semi-automatic weapon would imprint a unique, identifiable mark on the cartridge casing (the primer cap, specifically) of a round when the weapon is fired.  Here's the first problem:  the technology for mass production doesn't exist.  There are prototypes that are unreliable, but there isn't a way to put even the unreliable technology into millions of guns.

If you know nothing about firearms, this technology seems like it might be helpful in solving crimes.  In practice, it would be less effective than New York and Maryland's "ballistic fingerprinting" laws.  The idea behind those is that you can help solve crimes CSI style.  Each new gun is test fired and the unique pattern imprinted on the bullet by the rifling of the firearm is put into a database.  If a crime is ever committed by a gun, they'll be able to match the "fingerprint" to the gun.  Tens of thousands of firearms are in the databases in those states now.  To date, I'm not aware of a single crime solved because of that information.  Much like human fingerprints, it turns out rifling in gun barrels isn't as unique as advertised, and circumstances of impact can render the patterns unusuable (much like a very smeared fingerprint).  Even if you can identify the gun involved, see point 1 below.  It won't normally do any good.

Microstamping would be even less useful, since the casing ejected from the gun doesn't actually harm anyone.  It might just establish a certain gun was used in a crime.  By now a reader might wonder, why wouldn't that help?

 Microstamping can be rendered ineffective in at least three ways:

1.  Use of stolen or illegally imported guns would defeat microstamping.  Most guns used in crimes are stolen guns.  A database of the registration* information of that gun, the microstamping information, or even the "ballistic fingerprint" won't help solve the crime, as it will only point back to a stolen gun.  In fact, it's a waste of taxpayer money, because it's not a lead for police, it's a dead end they must waste time chasing down.  Further, with a completely unsecured border to our South, plenty of illegal guns come in and they won't have microstamping technology incorporated into them.

2.  A simple misdirection would defeat microstamping.  A smart criminal with a bit of time at the crime scene could pick up his own casings and then dump a bag of spent casings collected from a range or other source at the scene of the crime.  Not that he'd bother with this subterfuge since he's probably already using a stolen or illegally imported gun, but it could be done.

3.  A criminal, being a criminal, could illegally replace the firing pin of a pistol with a replacement shipped from Mexico, or bought in any other U.S. state.  Again, this is more effort than they're likely to go to because of point 1.  They're not going to bother legally obtaining a firearm to the illegally modify.  They'll just by a stolen or illegally imported gun.

Those are just the quick and easy ways I can think of to defeat microstamping, never mind the simple fact that a criminal could replace a firing pin pretty easily.  

What's the impact on a lawful gun owner?  Precisely what California lawmakers intended.

Firing pins, just like any piece of metal striking another piece of metal repeatedly, wear out over time.  They have to be replaced.  It would now be either a crime, or very expensive for a lawful gun owner to replace a worn out firing pin.  So not only is the cost of purchasing a gun going to be significantly raised, but maintaining your firearm now becomes significantly more expensive, or even criminal.  That's assuming you can find a gun manufacturer to buy from since the technology doesn't exist to allow them to comply with the law to begin with.

To recap, microstamping won't help solve crimes.  Instead, the very foreseeable result of this legislation is the harrassment of lawful gun owners and the potential criminalization of simple maintenance of a firearm.  Any law that targets lawful owners instead of criminals is a bad one, but that doesn't matter to the wrong-headed leftists in the California legislature.  They want the police to be the only ones with guns, and they see lawful owners as criminals to be hunted down just for daring to exercise their 2nd amendment rights.

Those who want to ban guns depend on the ignorance of the general public to carry out their plans.  If all of the above is too complex, the picture below presents the more general argument.

 photo Control_zpseeed6dae.jpg

*I've actually become opposed to mandatory registration of guns, since the only use of registration lists to date has been to track down and disarm lawful owners following the Katrina disaster.  Registration is simply a precursor to disarmament.

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