NSSF Gets Second Chance to Argue Against Microstamping Law

Speer .40 S&W cartridge case head with microstamp

After a disappointing decision, the appellate court gave new life to the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s (NSSF) effort to block enforcement of a law that would be impossible through today’s technological standards—namely microstamping. For most, it would not be much of a surprise to learn that it is California that wants the impossible, but at least now gun owners from the left coast will have a voice on the matter. Here is the full release from the NSSF.

Speer .40 S&W cartridge case head with microstamp

California Appellate Court Reverses Dismissal of NSSF, SAAMI Suit to Block Enforcement of Microstamping Law

A California Appellate Court has reversed the Fresno Superior Court’s dismissal of the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) and the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute (SAAMI) lawsuit seeking an injunction to block enforcement of the state’s ammunition microstamping law and remanded the case back to the lower court to hear arguments.

“We are pleased by today’s ruling because it means we will now be able to prove in court that this ill-considered law must be enjoined because it is literally impossible to comply with its requirements, and the law never requires the impossible. We have long maintained that this nascent, unproven and unreliable technology should not have been mandated. When we ultimately prevail in this case, law-abiding consumers in California will once again be able to purchase new models of pistols this law currently prevents our industry members from selling in the state,” said Lawrence G. Keane, NSSF Senior Vice President and General Counsel.

NSSF and SAAMI filed the lawsuit on behalf of their members against the State of California in Fresno Superior Court seeking to block the enforcement of the state’s microstamping law, violations of which are a criminal offense. The state statute enacted in 2007, but not made effective until May 2013, requires that all new models of semiautomatic handguns sold in the state had to be designed to incorporate this unproven and unreliable microstamping technology.

Under this law, firearms manufacturers would have to micro laser-engrave a gun’s make, model and serial number on two distinct parts of each handgun 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 meets the requirement of this ill-considered law. It is not technologically possible to microstamp two locations in the gun and have the required information imprint onto the cartridge casing. In addition, the current state of the technology cannot reliably, consistently and legibly imprint on the cartridge primer the required identifying information from the tip of the firing pin, the only possible location where it is possible to micro-laser engrave the information,” said Keane.

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. The California legislature subsequently reorganized certain statutes concerning the regulation of firearms, including the microstamping law in 2010. On May 17, 2013, Attorney General Kamala D. Harris provided such certification. Harris was elected to the U.S. Senate in November.

Read the California Appellate Court Ruling.

See additional Fast Facts backgrounder on Microstamping from NSSF.

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Comments (26)

  1. Two things, brass catchers and Glaser safety slugs.
    Both destroy those attempts.
    BYW, some people reload.
    So after reloading a piece of brass 3 or 4 times, who is to say what microstamp is the last one?

  2. That may be what it will take to show that roster doesn’t leave us with much choice. It is bad enough that we are held to 10 round mags, which is silly in double stack mags and will force handgun companies to offer them to any Ca handgun buyer that wants most glocks, CZs, or other full size 9s.

  3. SoS Kamela Harris, now a Senator representing California in DC, indeed signed the letter certifying that the microstamping technology was available to more than one manufacturer AND is unencumbered by patents. This letter in itself is false as I am not aware of any manufacturer who is utilizing microstamping. Additionally, and a bigger issue is the fact that there are two patents on this technology filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office. SoS Harris’ letter in itself is a boldface lie and, in typical Democrat fashion, signed it knowing it was a lie and also knowing she could get away with the lie. If caught she would merely say her signing was a simple misunderstanding. In the meantime, we won’t have a single handgun for sale after 2017 if this court case isn’t resolved to the gun owner’s benefit.

  4. Yes the microstamping is imprinted upon the casing by the handgun each time it is fired. That was explained in the article, but some folks may not have time to read through it.

    For those interested, below I’ve provided a link to a short NRA video which does a fantastic job using experts to explain why microstamping is impossible. Now that a higher court has forced this case to finally be heard in a court of law, the suit should easily prevail.

  5. Every brass casing I fire comes home with me as well as those I find fired by others that I give to people who reload those calibers.
    Eventually those brass casings could have 2, 3, or even more different micro-stamps so who is to say where it came from.
    And criminals will use stolen, modified guns with brass catchers leaving nothing to ID.

    1. I believe that the micro-stamping relates to the gun’s firing pin being micro-stamped and transferring it’s image onto the primer – not the brass.

    2. You are correct, Bob, that the microstamp is transmitted by the firing pin. That being the case, when the used primer is punched out of the case in the process of reloading, the old primer is disposed of and no lingering microstamp impression is left on the case. As to Archangel’s comments, notwhithstanding his perception of how the microstamp is printed, he is correct that microstamping will have little to no value in processing a crime scene, so it becomes apparent…..once again…..that this whole business of microstamping is just another ploy in the anti-Second Amendment afficionado’s attacks on the rights of legitimate gun ownership.

    3. I too replied in a general area vs. replying to the original comments… That’s true about the firing pin doing the micro-stamp, but they are seeking TWO methods to identify the cartridge during/after firing! I think it was a guess that (the brass) would be the second location…it could be the round!

    4. Hmmm…..Didn’t know about that one. What a barrel of crap the anti-gunners are trying to throw into the game! ‘Sorta makes one wonder what they expect to happen with all the millions of guns we have that don’t stamp anything…..

  6. It would be nice to see criminals actually punished for their crimes instead of rewarded with all the benefits a working man can’t afford. Criminals have no fear of consequences due to the legal system that rewards them. Make the defense attorneys and judges who allow repeat criminals to be free, be charged and sent to jail if that criminal commits another crime. They are accessories to repeat offenders. The anti-gun crowd is making it ridiculously expensive to manufacture bullets; that is their goal here. The whole idea stems on the requirement that the LE finds the bullet casing in order to search the database. Lets assume everyone just shoots the ammo they already have and that takes 25 years to exhaust the supply before anyone would be coerced to buy the marked ammo at all. I’m sure the super rich liberals have plenty of their own money that they are eager to put into this project. After all, if they believe it is viable, they certainly would want to fund it themselves to get the ball rolling.

  7. Such a law was and is asinine from the start. In other words they want to criminalize all legal gun owners or at the least, dissuade people from wanting to own firearms out of fear of becoming a criminal via the myriad of laws they impose on us as legal gun owners

  8. The missouri bill would never have happened without the support and direction of those 2A organizations you speak of. Sure there are plenty to subscribe to and not all are working for us but without them and their influence at state and federal levels, our rights would have been overrun years ago. So, I’ll keep giving the few I’ve chosen my hard earned money to keep up the fight.

  9. Well said Gentlemen. I am especially fond of GMANS thoughts and agree that there will never be a stop to the Pain “WE” feel as a result of the Laws so easily passed when there is no cost to those in Power who write these Laws and have ‘The Megaphone” of the Press etc, to Propagandize the SHEEP. There has to be a Cost associated to THEM for their continual assaults, particularly the blatant harassment.
    I further believe the Legal Powers, and 2A ORganizations that are constatntly trolling us for funds to FIGHT these Laws are all enjoined in their own Agendas, that is to create an environment where they can earn a living to supposedly fight for THE PEOPLE. However I see NO ACTION that has been successful. Look at what other States are doing to Support 2A. Now Missouri Bill seeks to hold GUN FREE owners liable for damages resulting from GUN FREE zones as just one example of what I mean. There is no reason we have to suffer endlessly under these arcane and absurd laws and corrupt politicians.

  10. Like MAC addresses and area code + phone numbers, you will eventually run out of numbers/letters to continue this ill-advised tactic.

    1. Technically true, but it would take an awfully long time.

      Let’s assume that you start with the 26 capital letters of the English alphabet and the ten Arabic digits. Eliminate characters that are easily confused: I (confused with 1), S (confused with 5) and O (confused with 0). You’re left with 33 more-or-less distinct characters.

      That would provide >4.26 x 10^63 (426 with 61 zeroes after it) unique codes. I think it’s safe to say that the human race hasn’t yet manufactured that many firearms in all of history.

      The problem, of course, is that this assumes that you use 33-character codes. Clearly, there isn’t room for that many characters on a micro-stamp. If you limit code length to eight characters (as shown in the photo accompanying this story), the number of unique codes is reduced to 46,411,484,401,953 (>46 trillion).

      That’s still a very large number, but to maintain uniqueness would require a central database of assigned numbers. Who’s going to pay for, and administer, that?

      The law is unworkable as a practical matter, let alone for technical reasons.

    2. Your math may check out, but doesn’t fit the situation. The first 2-4 digits will be used to identify the manufacturer and model, leaving you with (at least in the example) 4 digits to alphanumerically identify YOUR firearm. That means you can register approx. 1.68 million before you run out. If only in California, it will last a while; but not if used nationally (provided lasers will ever be able to micro-stamp that small AND be legible after firing…

  11. If any law was effective against criminals we wouldn’t need law enforcement personnel. We should make it possible for us to sue politicians if we defeat their legislation in court and not allow them to use taxpayers money.

  12. There is no doubt there exists despicable politicians whom, with impunity, regularly abuse their lawmaking authority with the specific intent to pass what I term as – deceitful ulterior legislation.

    Such legislative acts are shrouded in the false narrative of having the public’s best interests or safety in mind, but are nothing more than wholesale schemes designed to harm or shutdown legal American industries that politicians ideologically disagree with.

    The core of the problem is politicians may propose or support any devious legislation they please without the fear of suffering any immediate consequences.

    Currently the only means by which citizens have to deter such behavior is a cumbersome, rare, and costly recall effort or to wait out years of the politicians’ term and then hope enough people remember what the duplicitous tyrants did in order to finally vote them out of office.

    Even if we pursue injunctive relief to overturn their inane laws through court battles, such a lengthy process has never served as an effective preemptive method for persuading these politicians to stop their nonsense from the onset. This is because politicians are well aware it is the taxpayer that bears the immense burden of this process from start to finish – regardless of the outcome.

    Until we force rules which create some method of personal financial risk for each and every complicit politician, this madness will never end. Therefore I propose some type of bond program whereby legislators must post their own personal bond money along with every piece of legislation they submit.

    If their law passes and stands the legitimacy test of the American people, their bond is fully refunded. However, if their law is challenged and loses in court or proven to be malicious in any way, their bond must be forfeited and go towards the taxpayer costs of litigation.

    I truly believe this or a similar system would go a long way towards significantly reducing such kneejerk or deceitful ulterior legislation from ever being proposed to begin with.

    1. I’d be satisfied with just instituting Term Limits on Congress and get these cronies out of the way. Rather than “Bill Bonding”, I think legislators should also have to live by the laws they create. i.e. social security, pensions, lobbying, gun laws, immigration, healthcare, etc… Then we would see actions meant to improve situations and not “just to do something about it”.

  13. Once we recognize that the anti-Second Amendment zealots will never…..NEVER…..give up in the quest to strip We The People of our Constitutional right to keep and bear arms, we will have taken a giant step toward recognizing just how rabidly they will continue to attack those rights. We must never forget that the ultimate objective of the anti-gunners is total and complete confiscation of all firearms from the masses. No matter how long it takes and whatever means it takes, including nutty schemes such as microstamping, they will continually and consistently remain on the attack. Stand strong and stand fast, my Brothers in Arms.

    1. I’m beginning to believe the “Left leaning zelots” actually want criminals to keep their guns. Any idiot can figure out these criminals will never voluntarily give them up. If you consider most Democrat politicians seem to always use fear to control us, then criminals with firearms are an excellent source of this “fear” politicians need to make us dependent on them. You can rest assured politicians and/or their body guards, will always be allowed to have firearms. Fear & the power of control is what it’s always all about. That fear & power of control will allow them to do as they damned well pease at anytime.

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