Commentary: It’s time to end ‘microstamp’ requirement for handguns


Of the many efforts at backdoor gun grabs in California, the law requiring new handguns to have “microstamps” is among the most ridiculous.

Thankfully there’s a bill in the Legislature to overturn that requirement and return a bit of sanity to California’s otherwise out-of-control gun laws.

Microstamping is a process in which a gun imprints a unique microscopic code onto the ammunition it fires. The goal is to enable detectives to collect shell casings at a crime scene, enter the code in a database and quickly track the firearm to its owner.


The problem is that the technology is wholly unreliable and prohibitively expensive. Each time a gun is fired, it wears slightly, leaving a microstamp unreadable after a short period of normal use. On top of that, it would be easy for a criminal to swap out microstamped gun parts for ones with no markings.

Because of California’s law requiring new gun models to use microstamping, no gun manufacturer has introduced a new handgun model to our state since 2013. That means handguns with the latest and most reliable technology are not available to California’s law-abiding gun owners.

That is exactly what anti-gun legislators wanted when they passed the law.

This, as with most gun control bills, does nothing to improve public safety. It won’t get illegal guns off the street but will only drive up the cost of handguns made before 2013, making them unaffordable to Californians on a budget who wish to exercise their Second Amendment rights.

It also does little, if anything, to aid police investigations. Law enforcement has all the tools it needs to trace a gun to its original owner. But legal firearms are rarely used in crimes. In most cases, years pass between the original sale of a firearm and the time it is used in a crime. Finding out who owned a firearm a decade ago does little to tell police who fired it criminally last week.

The bill to eliminate California’s microstamp requirement, AB 2733, is making its way through the Legislature. It is time for California’s legislators to recognize and respect their constituents’ rights.

AB 2733 is a common-sense law to ensure that good people can exercise their rights and protect themselves.

MATTHEW HARPER (R-Huntington Beach) represents California’s 74th Assembly District.