Microstamping law forces gun manufacturers to stop selling new guns in California

Two gun manufacturers say they've stopped selling updated versions of semiautomatic handguns in California because they can't comply with the law

This new law in The Golden State requires gun-makers to engrave a gun’s serial number in its chamber so that it the number becomes stamped on each bullet as it is fired, allowing police to identify a weapon from cartridges at a crime scene.

The law was passed in 2007 and took effect in May of 2013, after Attorney General Kamala Harris certified that the needed technology was available. However, gun advocates claimed the law was pointless because the technology was ineffectual and no manufacturers would comply.

Then a lawsuit was filed on January 9th by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, claiming that compliance is simply impossible.  The suit states, “No semiautomatic pistol can be designed or equipped with a microscopic array of characters identifying a gun's make, model and serial number that can be legibly and reliably transferred to the cartridge upon firing.”

According to former Democratic Assemblyman Mike Feuer, the author of the micro-stamping law, this is inconsistent with a demonstration of the technology at the Los Angeles Police Academy in 2007. "This is part of a very cynical strategy by the gun lobby and the gun industry to try to thwart what safety experts recognize is an innovation that will make all of us safer," Feuer said in a statement.

The law does not apply to semiautomatics that were already on the state's list of safe weapons approved for sale as of May, but only to new models submitted for approval since then. Smith & Wesson said that it would continue to market its previously approved handguns in California but would make no attempt to micro-stamp any new models. The procedure "is unreliable, serves no safety purpose, is cost-prohibitive and, most importantly, is not proven to aid in preventing or solving crimes," the company said.

Although other manufacturers can also sell their pre-May 2013 semiautomatics in California, those models will start disappearing from the shelves, according to C.D. Michel, the National Rifle Association's attorney in the state. He said gun-makers continually update their products, and state regulators have decided that any refinement to a handgun makes it a new model, which now requires micro-stamping.

"The aim of the law is handgun safety,” said attorney Cody Jacobs of the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.  “Millions of guns are sold in California every year. If Smith & Wesson doesn't want that money, another company will gladly take it."


For more on gun compliance, checkout these articles:

Labor: Gun violence and background checks

Gun-related patents hit a 35-year high

Contributing Author

author image

Amanda Ciccatelli

Amanda G. Ciccatelli is a Freelance Journalist for InsideCounsel, where she covers intellectual property, legal technology, patent litigation, cybersecurity, innovation, and more. She earned a B.A....

Bio and more articles

Join the Conversation

Advertisement. Closing in 15 seconds.