The Second Amendment Foundation Sues Over Microstamping

Second Amendment Foundation

Fortunately for all of the gunslingers and shooting enthusiasts out there, we have organizations such as the National Rifle Association, Second Amendment Foundation, National Gun Rights Association and others defending our rights. The gun control crowd has taken a divide and conquer approach. Where they cannot strip us of our rights on a national scale, they are trying to pick apart one state at a time, even down to the county level if necessary.

The Backstory

Second Amendment Foundation
National Organizations such as the Second Amendment Foundation are the great defends of our rights.

One of the latest such attacks comes from the left coast—specifically, the Golden State. California passed a controversial microstamping bill back in 2007, but was not able to implement it due to patent issues. Then, in mid to late May 2013, California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced, effective immediately, all new semi-automatic firearms sold in the State of California will require a unique microstamp on every shell ejected when a gun is fired.

Small details, for example how a firearm that has been illegally purchased such as those through straw purchasers from federal agents in Operation Fast and Furious, could help track down criminals.  Criminals do not buy local guns legally. They import guns from wherever they can get them.

Federal law prohibits the destruction or defacing of serial number on firearms, but it also currently prohibits the registry of firearms. This produces a dilemma with regard to microstamping. California’s solution was to define microstamping as other than a serial number so it would not run afoul of Federal law for registry. At the same time, that allows every owner to obliterate the microstamp or simply replace the engraved part—both of which would be legal and would render the stamp useless for later prosecution.

Let’s take that thought a step further and look at other implications. Let’s say you owned a microstamped pistol and the state had your tag registered. Would you take your semi-auto to the range? Perhaps pop a few caps; burn a little powder. What did you leave behind? I’ll tell you what—your nom de plume, John Hancock, ATM pin—in essence your personal fingerprint. All that would be required is for a criminal to get one or two cases and leave them behind at a crime scene and your life becomes a personal hell courtesy of the legislature.

Of course these, and other troubling facts, did not stop lawmakers from pushing the controversial law through or its sudden and unwarranted implementation. Anyone with even a modicum of common sense can see this will not do anything to decrease crime or increase prosecution. Yes, that includes the lawmakers themselves. I know that seems like a stretch (lawmakers having common sense) however, I can prove it in this case. When the law was written, it specifically exempted law enforcement.

Students can carry at the University of Utah. Reported sexual assault is 58 percent less than the national average.
The goal of California’s microstamping is nothing more than a gun ban it could not get passed any other way.

Why would you need to exempt law enforcement? Are they above the commission of a crime? Why can’t they buy microstamped weapons like the rest of the citizens? Wouldn’t you want to know which brass belonged to the police and which ones to particular suspects versus a casing that was potentially left over from another crime or shooting? The answer is two-fold. First, they can already do that through the tool marks left by the firing pin and breach face that are unique to each gun. They do not need microstamping.

Instead, this allows California to create an “otherwise illegal” firearm ownership registry at a minimum to subvert Federal law and more likely it is an outright de facto ban on the importation or sale of semi-autos in the state. The cost would be unnecessarily prohibitive and manufacturers would simply quit selling guns in California, thus law enforcement would not be able to get firearms either, thus the exemption.

The Response

Attorneys for the Second Amendment Foundation and Calguns Foundation have filed an amended complaint in the on-going Pena case, challenging California’s handgun roster law to clarify that the challenge extends to the state’s newly activated microstamping regulation.

The plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment will be argued by the court’s deadline in November.

The case was originally filed in 2009 as a challenge to California’s regulation that arbitrarily bans handguns based on a roster of “acceptable” handgun models approved by the state. The new motion addresses microstamping, which has made it even harder to legally purchase a handgun in the state of California.

“When the case was originally filed,” SAF Executive Vice President Alan Gottlieb recalled, “the state’s microstamping requirement was not active and was not part of the lawsuit. However, because of substantial delays involving the Ninth Circuit’s protracted Nordyke litigation, microstamping is now a significant issue. We’ve had to amend our complaint to address this new effort by California legislators to limit the types of handguns one can legally purchase.”

Gene Hoffman, chairman of the Calguns Foundation, added, “California’s attempt to limit the availability of handguns to her citizens is so broad that it makes it impossible to purchase the revolver that the U.S. Supreme Court has specifically ruled had to be registered to Dick Heller, whose case struck down the District of Columbia’s handgun ban and affirmed that the Second Amendment protects an individual civil right.

Police Responding
Law Enforcement was given an exemption. The newly enacted microstamping legislation will prevent the sale of semi-autos in California and would effectively shut down law enforcement otherwise – just as it will the defensive capabilities of citizens.

“The state cannot dictate that some common arms can’t be bought just as they can’t dictate which versions of religious texts are acceptable,” Hoffman added. “Now that the state requires microstamping, it’s unlikely any new make or model of pistol will be added—making it even clearer that this is an incremental ban on firearms.”

“Amending our case to address the California legislature’s insidious erosion of firearms rights was a necessary step,” Gottlieb concluded. “It is clear the intent of anti-gun lawmakers is not to regulate firearms but to ban them via increasingly restrictive legislation. This scheme cannot go without challenge, and our existing case is the best and quickest way to accomplish that.”

Reach out to your local lawmakers and ensure your voice is heard loud and often, then make take a minute two to make sure someone else’s officials know that we are one voice and very united in our fight. Anytime you open your wallet and find an extra buck or two, remember who was out there fighting for our rights on a national and local level. Today it is California and Colorado; tomorrow it may be something closer to home. I’ll pay it forward today in the hopes that other gun owners will step up when my lawmakers pull something onerous like California and Colorado recently have.

Will you help out the law-abiding gun owners of California and Colorado whose rights are under assault? Let us know in the comment section.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (70)

  1. Good point, Bob. In California, the only place the ID number can be found is on the frame and it is this number that is used when filling out the paperwork required for the sale. As for your example of the AR-15, none of the other parts, such as the stock, upper receiver, barrel, etc., are stamped with this number.

  2. Just a bit off topic but isn’t a firing pin part of the bolt or bolt carrier group and therefore not legally defined as being part of a firearm? So, can a firearm law be enacted on a product that isn’t a firearm. Last I checked the frame or receiver was the firearm, not the bolt.

  3. I wrote the below letter and sent it many times in the last few years. Food for thought re: micro stamping

    PS- I left out the possibility of reloading a microstamped fired cartridge case and shooting it from a pre microstamped gun.

    I am writing to add additional arguments in opposition to micro-stamping that I believe are significant and have been overlooked.

    I am a retired Police Officer now employed as a Forensic Firearm Examiner. During my law enforcement career I have investigated a number of shooting related crimes. Most if not all of these crimes are committed by career criminals and gangs engaging in unlawful activity. I have never had the opportunity to arrest a licensed gun owner for misuse of a firearm. As a Forensic Firearm Examiner I have examined many firearms and have given opinion testimony in Court regarding firearm examination. Having investigated many aspects of crimes involving firearms I would like to add the following:

    Micro stamping is being presented as a supplement or augmentation to tool mark identification. It’s clear based on the past scientific research conducted by forensic tool mark examiners, there are various ways different ammunition interacts with different firearms. Because of these variables, micro stamping technology is not capable of producing a readable make, model, and serial number on every fired cartridge case.

    Much more importantly, the focus of an investigation in an assault with a firearm is the shooter not the gun. Law enforcement does not need to recover the responsible firearm to arrest someone for illegal use of a firearm. In cases where the police find the responsible firearm, they still have to put that gun in the shooters hand at the time of the offense. Micro-stamping will not do that. All micro stamping will do (assuming the technology works) is generate manufacturer information for the firearm.

    All legitimate, responsible gun owner’s purchase firearms from legitimate gun stores. This means that there is a considerable amount of documentation and information regarding the owner and the manufacture information of the firearm. Some elected officials are trying to get people to believe that the documentation and information recorded from these legitimate gun sales will help the police arrest criminals using guns during crimes. This could not be farther from the truth.

    Unfortunately, career criminals and gangs do not purchase firearms by legitimate means. They have to obtain firearms and ammunition from illegitimate means (stolen or undocumented). This means there is NO documentation or information about the illegal possession or use of a firearm. Micro stamping will not change that.

    Therefore the information that law enforcement investigators will glean from micro stamping will not really give us any additional information to solve crimes involving firearms. It can not tell us anything about the illegitimate use of a firearm by someone who obtained the firearm on the street. Most importantly, micro stamping will not make our streets any safer.

    Micro stamping is no different than the “New Gun data base” that exists or previously existed in NY State and Maryland. Millions of dollars was spent on a computer system, its operation, and its maintenance, that can compare fired cartridge cases recovered from a crime scene to a fired cartridge case from a new firearm legally sold to a licensed firearm owner.  It is my understanding that this “new gun database” that has been in use for more than 10 years has not solved one crime!

    Just to be clear there is an excellent ballistic database in use by crime labs all over this country using traditional proven forensic tool mark methodologies that successfully link crime scene to crime scene and guns to crime scenes. The reason why this database is so successful is because the focus of the link is the time date and location of the incident rather than the manufacture information of the firearm.

    Elected officials who truly believe that micro stamping can make our communities safer need to be educated on how law enforcement investigate crimes involving firearms and what value the firearm manufacturer information has in that process. It is appalling to me to think that an elected official would attempt to misrepresent the facts about micro stamping and its potential to his/her constituents in an effort to get it passed.

    This bill mandating micro stamping will create more work for state and municipal employees to maintain record keeping and to create additional databases of legitimate firearm owners while the criminals remain stealth. Do we really need more inefficient use of our tax paid resources?

    As an alternative, elected officials should calculate how much more it would cost government municipalities to implement micro stamping and use that money for equipment and training for law enforcement investigators and forensic analysts.

    It is my opinion based on my previously stated qualifications, the above information, and as a law biding responsible gun owner, that micro stamping on firearms will not be a useful tool in solving crime involving firearms and most importantly, will not make our communities safer.

    Gerard Petillo
    Advanced Forensics & Investigations inc.

  4. Where’s the outrage over Assault Cars? You know, those nasty automobiles that run down innocent deer crossing the road!

  5. Liberals are opening the door… so I have another right we can tax and regulate in the EXACT same way we handle the right to bear arms. The irresponsible and/or violent outbursts of a few can now be seen to justify the following:

    Effective immediately, EVERY Muslim must obtain a PERMIT TO PRACTICE ISLAM. These permits will need to be renewed every few years and will cost the permit holder $100. Revenues from this permit process will be used to combat extremism.

    State and federal governments shall build and maintain databases that catalog all Muslims. Any Muslim found to be practicing Islam without a permit shall be subject to arrest, fines and imprisonment.

    Thorough background checks shall be conducted on all permit requests. No individual with a criminal record, a history of violence or any form of mental illness should be allowed access to Islam.

    Every mosque will need to submit an extensive volume of paperwork in order to obtain federal permits allowing them to preach Islam. These ‘dealers’ of Islam shall be held to very strict standards and extreme penalties if they do not stay within federal guidelines.

    It will not be easy for Muslims to stay within the law. We will write approximately 20,000 confusing laws governing and regulating the “free” exercise of Islam. Any Muslim that violates any of these laws will have their permit to practice Islam revoked permanently, and may face fines and/or imprisonment for violations.

    Mosques will submit detailed records to the federal government showing every attendee of their mosque on ant given date. Any discrepancies in record keeping will result in permit suspension, and the mosque may be shut down until they sort it out with the Bureau of Religion, Media and Thought Control. Multiple discrepancies may result in permanent revocation and possible imprisonment.

    Transport of Korans and other religious paraphernalia shall be strictly regulated. All Korans shall henceforth be sold with locking mechanisms to ensure that they do not fall into the wrong hands. They shall be transported in locked cases between the home and religious institutions. While in the home, they shall be locked at all times unless they are in use.

    Anyone wishing to carry an unlocked Koran in public shall obtain a special permit, and must keep it hidden at all times or face arrest.

    The federal government shall likewise regulate the ‘design’ of the Koran. Certain passages will be deemed ‘especially dangerous’, and shall be considered illegal to sell or transfer. Older Korans containing these passages may be ‘grandfathered’ and can be registered. A special permit will be required for those who wish to own or carry grandfathered passages.

    Mildly dangerous passages in the Koran can likewise be considered as incitements to violence, and limits should be imposed. We will therefore set an arbitrary limit of 10 dangerous passages per Koran. Any Koran that holds more than 10 may be considered illegal. Various states may set their own arbitrary limits as to which passages are allowed and how many are permissible (15, 10, 7, 6 or whatever is deemed suitable).

    ALL of this is now WELL ESTABLISHED as perfectly legal under liberal Democrat ideology. NONE of this is considered a violation of civil liberties. As Democrats have repeatedly pointed out, these are “COMMON SENSE MEASURES” to avert the actions of a violent few.

  6. I think a global economic crash is on the horizon that will make the Great Depression look like a slight fiscal correction.

    Our debt is something like 105% of the GDP and the government is still borrowing money.

    Once that happens, a large part of the socialist agenda goes away just because there isn’t anyone to get the money to fund the entitlement programs anymore.

  7. PS – There are a LOT of liberal democrats in Washington that are horrified at the percentage of troops who are wearing morale patches on their uniforms that say, “THREE PERCENT”, or “OATH KEEPER”.

    The “Oath Keeper” patch means that they will honor their oath to defend the constitution against ALL enemies, foreign AND DOMESTIC. The three percent patch means that they are one of the few that will shed blood to defend against tyranny.

  8. NEIL – I have to disagree with a few points you’ve made.

    Things today are much as they were 240 years ago. One third of the people are completely behind the big, oppressive government that we have. One third are strongly against the status quo. The final third are largely complacent “sheeple” who take no side in the issue.

    In our first civil war, we faced the largest and most feared military in the world. As mentioned, it was only a third of the people who were against them. However, only ten percent lifted a finger in the war of independence (gave money, aided troops, etc). And it was only THREE PERCENT of the population that actually took up arms against the British and were willing to spill blood and have their blood spilled.

    All of this is STILL TRUE. However, 3 percent of todays population constitutes an army of more than TEN MILLION.

    Now lets look at who a civilian uprising would face. The British military was 100% behind the crown. The same CANNOT be said of the American military. In fact MOST of our military is not too thrilled with the state of affairs in Washington DC. Most of them would NOT follow orders to fire on a civilian uprising. In point of fact, they would be just as likely to march back towards DC as to stand and defend it.

    As to your imagining a tax revolt, it’s been made nearly impossible. Most people have their taxes removed before they ever see them (withholding from paychecks). For most, there is no option to receive full payment and pay taxes later.

    In fact, the BEST thing that could ever happen in America would be to STOP all withholding. If every American had to sit down and write checks to pay quarterly taxes… no liberal Democrat would ever hold office again.

  9. There won’t be a civil war. There are too many people who live fat, dumb, apathetic and happy on the freebies that the rest of us are forced to provide. A civil war would be beaten down pronto. There might be isolated insurrections a la “Red Dawn,” but I don’t believe that a civil war is in the future. Besides, citizens would require backing by the national biased liberal news media, and from what I have seen, that ain’t gonna happen.

    The only thing I can think of would be a national tax revolt, whereby every taxpayer just refused to send the government anything. The Democrats would hate it; they love taxes…especially when someone else pays them.

  10. In regards to number 8 written by Jay, I as many others swore an oath to protect and defend the United States of America which includes the constitution. I know that anyone holding public office took the same oath. We the people need to stand up and to the politicians that are trying to destroy this country. Use common sense and read between the lines as to what is happening in our country. If the citizens do not respond, to the atrocity we will see another civil war in our country. I might add, this should be posted in every newspaper and magazine and every television station in this country and word of mouth. Wake up people. Your freedoms are being taken away from the inside. Thank you for this opportunity to speak.

  11. I would just like to say as a citizen of San Bernardino California thank you for helping us out in our gun rights struggles. Everyday it’s the same old rhetoric for soy-eating self absorbed jerks that thinks guns are evil, Obama is king, the govt.(or any govt. for that mater) never lies to it’s people, and if you don’t think like them it’s because your a dinosaur that has not yet evolved to there enlightened intellect. Well I call B.S. on them, Cali. has always had some of the strictest gun laws and yet they have done jack to help from what I can see. We have the toughest emissions laws yet I can’t see the redlands hills due to the crap smog from L.A., three strikes law was a joke, our crime is so famous it’s the stuff movies are made of, and if your from here you know that a run in with the local smash unit will end with your rights being violated and your life being threatened whether you’re a gang banger or not regardless of your appearance; and that’s just a Tuesday. To everyone else in the U.S. don’t let your state become like Cali. Once it does it’s hell to change it back. On a side note, I propose that instead of calling my state California, we should just refer to it as the new Nazi state; yea it just sorta rolls off the tongue, come to the Nazi state where you too can be poor and oppressed by facists pretending to be environmentalists. 🙂 big smile

  12. Let the worthless politicians make all the laws they want–millions, who cares? Guns will never go away; in fact, the manufacture of them will probably increase–black market, laws be damned. The mother of invention will prevail.

    The down-side will be more gun violence to protect our right to own and carry. Let’s all say “Prohibition” together. The murder rate doubled during the prohibition years and dropped back to half almost overnight when it was rescinded. The fools who want to control us will never learn, they are everywhere.

    Gun banning will just start a new industry for the mob, gangs, and others. Machining guns and ammo is not rocket science; but it could result in more dangerous weapons.

  13. Bruce, you may be right, but you forgot to mention that the national liberal news media has a habit of being quite biased against conservatives and their agenda. This includes their speaking out against the gun-grabbers. If you have failed to see “conservative politicians speaking out against all this crap,” it isn’t because they haven’t; it’s because you won’t find their views and their expressions of outrage in the mainstream media.

  14. I see the common theme here is liberals hate guns and conservatives love guns. I have voted liberal in the past because at one time it seemed they were for the little guy. Now there appears there is no difference between the two. I own many fire arms and do not agree with any of the anti 2nd amendment laws trying to be rammed through. At this time i don’t see a lot of conservative politicians speaking out against all this crap. what i see is one party putting it out there and the other going along with it or keeping silent. They both have the same agenda, total control.

  15. On paper you are correct, but in reality… — GW — June 23, 2013 @ 12:21 pm

    As part of both Heller and McDonald SCOTUS has declared that any gun laws have to pass the strict scrutiny standard. So even if the circuit court wants to say that it isn’t a violation to restrict firearms by category or design, they can’t. If they do that means it’s an automatic appeal.

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