After passing several measures to curb gun violence this week, New York also became the second State to enforce the microstamping rule on gun makers.
Microstamping is a technology in which guns imprint tiny codes on ammunition cartridges as they are fired, thus creating unique signature police could use to help solve crimes. A pair of engineers in New Hampshire are credited with inventing microstamping as a potential law enforcement tool three decades ago. The process involves engraving a serial number inside the firearm, on the tip of the firing pin or breech face.
When the gun fires, that unique number or code is stamped on the shell casing. Law enforcement investigators could then pick up casings at crime scenes and turn to a database that could indicate which gun fired the round and where a licensed firearms dealer last sold that weapon.
But there’s a catch here. According to microstamping co-inventor Todd Lizotte, “The issue here is providing a forensic tool to identify a firearm when a firearm is not recovered.”
On the other hand, Peter Diaczuk, a firearms expert with John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said unanswered issues still need to be resolved before microstamping becomes a valuable law enforcement tool. It’s unclear, for example, who would maintain any database capable of linking serial numbers on recovered shell casings to firearms.
Diaczuk said he’s also worried about a lack of research on microstamping and how long the engraving technology lasts before it wears out. He said worried supporters are exaggerating how well microstamping is proven to work.
As it stands, New York’s law covers all newly manufactured handguns, not just new models, meaning gunmakers would only be able to bypass the rule until they depleted existing stock.
But with many arguments stacked against the microstamping law, State officials will spend six months investigating whether microstamping is as technologically viable as its supporters claim. If the answer is “yes,” the state has given itself four years to set up regulations. After that, dealers who sell firearms that violate the law could face fines or the loss of their license.