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New York Follows California’s Lead Becoming Second State To Require Microstamping of Semiautomatic Handguns

by Douglas Ankney

On June 6, 2022, Governor Kathy Hochul signed legislation that made New York the second state to require microstamping of semiautomatic pistols. It took ten years from its proposal to be enacted, but the new law requires semiautomatic pistols manufactured and sold in the state to be equipped with microstamping technology.

According to engineer Todd Lizotte who holds the patent for microstamping, the technology uses “optimized laser micromachining” to place codes linked to the serial number of a firearm. These codes are formed as “micro-embossing structures,” that come into contact with the cartridge as it is cycled through the firearm and ejected upon firing. In a nutshell, the microstamping enables a firing pin to imprint a unique alphanumeric or geometric code onto a spent shell casing that identifies the make, model, and serial number of the weapon from which the shell was fired. When law enforcement recovers a shell casing from a crime scene, police can access a database to determine which gun fired the round and from which licensed firearms dealer the weapon was last sold. However, the law is unclear as to who will be responsible for maintaining the database.

California was first to pass a firearm microstamping law in 2008 and has had an incredibly difficult time enforcing it. California’s legislature intended to phase in the law by requiring the technology to be used only on all new models. But gun manufacturers seized on this concession by continuing to sell the older models not covered under the law and declining to introduce new models. Cognizant of this unintended loophole, New York requires microstamping of all newly manufactured semiautomatic handguns and not just newer models — meaning once the existing stock is depleted, all semiautomatic handguns made and sold in New York will be microstamped.

In a related story, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy (D) proposed a comprehensive gun-safety legislative package in April of 2021 that included microstamping technology. New Jersey would be the third state with a microstamping law if passed. 


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