January 13th, 2014

NSSF and SAAMI Sue to Block California Microstamping Policies

microstamping pistol identificationOn January 10, the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) and the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute (SAAMI) filed a lawsuit on behalf of their members against the State of California in Fresno Superior Court challenging the state’s microstamping law. NSSF and SAAMI seek to invalidate and enjoin enforcement of provisions of California state law enacted in 2007, but not made effective until May 2013. These newly “activated” provisions of California law will effectively require that ALL future models of semi-auto pistols be microstamp-capable. Note — semi-auto handguns that are currently on California’s “approved” handgun roster will not be banned from sale. But guns introduced in the future cannot be sold in California unless they have microstamping technology. If gun makers cannot include such features in their future designs, the next generation of handguns will effectively be banned from sale in California.

Under California law, firearms manufacturers would have to micro laser-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 information would be imprinted on the cartridge casing when the pistol is fired. “There is no existing microstamping technology that will reliably, consistently and legibly imprint the required identifying information by a semiautomatic handgun on the ammunition it fires. The holder of the patent for this technology himself has written that there are problems with it and that further study is warranted before it is mandated. A National Academy of Science review, forensic firearms examiners and a University of California at Davis study reached the same conclusion and the technical experts in the firearms industry agree,” said Lawrence G. Keane, NSSF senior vice president and general counsel. “Manufacturers can not comply with a law the provisions of which are invalid, that cannot be enforced and that will not contribute to improving public safety. As a result, we are seeking both declaratory and injunctive relief against this back-door attempt to prevent the sale of new semiautomatic handguns to law-abiding citizens in California.”

In 2007, California Assembly Bill 1471 was passed and signed into law requiring microstamping on internal parts of new semiautomatic pistols. The legislation provided that this requirement would only became effective if the California Department of Justice certified that the microstamping technology is available to more than one manufacturer unencumbered by patent restrictions. On May 17, 2013, Attorney General Kamala D. Harris provided such certification. The DOJ’s certification notice has been attacked on the grounds that it is scientifically unsound, founded on little more than “wishful thinking”.

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