June 16, 2010
Microstamping–It’s Not Like Fingerprinting
A Newsday editorial yesterday promoted passage of a bill in the New York State Senate that would have required firearms manufacturers to stamp identification information on the firing pin of every gun sold in the state. Supporters of the bill claimed that "microstamping" would make it easier for law enforcement to solve crimes if imprinted spent cartridge cases could be collected at crime scenes. Thankfully, the bill did not pass.
Newsday's support for this microstamping bill was misguided because the stamping technology does not work and can easily be defeated. Newsday called the microstamping process "fingerprinting" firearms, but unlike fingerprints the markings imprinted onto the cartridge will change over time, due to wear, cleaning, corrosion, and normal use–not to mention deliberate alteration or replacing a firing pin (as is common among shooters). Placing a microscopic mark on a firing pin is like placing a car's vehicle identification number (VIN) on the tire tread. It just doesn't stand up.
That's why supporters of the bill could not muster enough votes to pass this legislation, which would have done nothing to reduce crime and would have resulted in a de facto ban on firearms in the state. Since indepedent testing shows that microstamping technology does not work reliably, firearms companies will not alter their manufacturing processes for reasons of cost and efficiency to produce "microstamped" firearms. Industry does support, however, further study into this process as called for by National Academy of Sciences.