California Pistol Micro-Stamping Requirement Goes into Effect
From now on, California will require all new-model semi-automatic handguns to be manufactured with microstamping technology (aka “ballistic imprinting”). This requirement went into effect on May 17th, when the California Attorney General’s office declared that technical and patent barriers to the implementation of microstamping had been removed.
To make a firearm compliant, firearms manufacturers must now engrave a gun’s make, model, and serial number on two distinct parts of each gun, including the firing pin, so that, in theory, this data is imprinted on the cartridge casing when the pistol is fired. If the microstamp on the end of the firing pin wears out, then the gun is considered “unsafe” under California law, and the owner may not sell or transfer the gun.
California’s microstamping law was enacted way back in 2007. However, by its terms, the law did not go into effect until the technology was mature and patent rights were resolved. With the State government claiming that microstamping is now practical, new gun models must have microstamping capability in order to be approved for civilian sale in California. This will, eventually serve as a de facto ban on new-model semi auto handguns in California. Brandon Combs, Executive Director of the Calguns Foundation, explains: “Manufacturers are not going to create a special run of firearms with all of these very burdensome manufacturing technologies just so they can comply and produce firearms for one market.” At present, as far as we can determine, no major gun-maker currently offers a microstamping-capable, semi-auto handgun for sale in the United States — not a single one.
Current “California-Approved” Semi-Auto Pistols Can Still Be Sold — For a Time
The “activation” of California’s microstamping requirement does NOT mean that semi-auto handguns currently on the California “approved” list can no longer be sold. The current inventory of “approved” handguns are “grandfathered”, so they may be sold so long as the manufacturers continue to pay annual handgun roster registration fees to the State of California. However, any new-model semi-auto pistol — even one with a minor design change from a previous version — will be blocked from sale in California unless it has the microstamping feature. If a manufacturer stops producing a particular handgun, replacing it with a newer, upgraded version, that newer model cannot be sold in California unless it is microstamp-capable. (We should add that the microstamp requirement does not apply to handguns sold to law enforcement agencies.)
What we can expect is that, in time, as handgun manufacturers replace old models with new models (or make modifications to existing models), fewer and fewer new semi-auto pistols will be offered for sale in California. If, for example, Glock updates its Glock 17, the new model could not be sold in California unless Glock outfits it with microstamping capability.
NRA Plans Legal Challenge
While there is virtually no “real world” evidence that microstamping has ever solved actual crimes, there are many important criticisms of the “ballistic imprinting” technology:
- NSSF and SAAMI Sue to Block California Microstamping Policies
- California Microstamping Law Status — DOA for Now
- Firearms Industry Challenges California Micro-Stamping Law
- Pistol Micro-Stamping Becomes Law in California
- National Academy of Sciences Opposes Ballistic Imaging Database and Questions Microstamping Technology