Monday, October 15, 2007

Schwarzenegger signs handgun microstamp bill

Schwarzenegger signs handgun microstamp bill

This would be AB1471, which was approved by the governor on October 13, 2007.

(Here is the full and complete text of the bill as it was approved; the last update of 9/17/2007.)

As we discussed in September, 2007, the Gun-Control activists in California have been pushing The Governator to enact draconian anti-gun bills during his reign term in office, and now they have succeeded in Act II. (Act I was the 2004 "Drop Testing" of handguns. It also included, in the same year, the ban on private ownership of .50 caliber rifles. See here and here.)

The Governator's justification was:
"While I appreciate and understand that this technology is not without limitations, I am signing this bill to provide law enforcement with an additional tool for solving crimes committed with semi-automatic handguns in California," Schwarzenegger said in a statement.

Translation: "I know the technology is unproven and dubious, but it makes me look good to actually sign a bill once in a while; with the other bill I signed last week, this puts both the Anti-gun lobby and the Gay Rights lobby right in my pocket. My message to Family Rights and Gun Rights people is: there aren't enough of you to affect my next election, so Hasta La Vista, Baby!"

The effect on gun owners is uncertain at this time. This is partly because news reports indicate that it only affects NEW guns:
Activists had called for the legislation, which requires new models of semiautomatic handguns sold in California to have internal parts that "microstamp" shell casings with codes that identify the guns when they are fired. Revolvers are exempt. [Ed. - emphasis added]
But the text of the bill which was made available in September suggests a much more draconian effect:
By expanding the definition of "unsafe handgun," the manufacture, sale, and other specified transfer of which is a crime, this bill would expand the scope of an existing crime, and thereby impose a state-mandated local program.
Note the added emphasis: "the manufacture, sale and other specified transfer of which is a crime."

This strongly suggests that not only is the designation of "unsafe handgun" not just applicable to new "gun models", or new guns ... it applies to any "semi-automatic pistol" which is transferred to another owner.

California owners cannot legally sell or trade or give away a firearm which is designated as an "unsafe handgun". If you're a California resident that means, for instance, that the 1911 which Grandpa brought home to commemorate the Battle of the Marne cannot legally be handed down to your children or grandchildren. It means that if you have a Glock 19 and your friend has a Kimber, you can't swap them whether or not there is an exchange of money involved.

It means that you can't take your Beretta down to the gun store and exchange it for a revolver. In fact, you can't even sell it to the gun store.

What happens when you die? That Colt Gold Cup can't be part of your estate unless it is retro-fitted with the "microstamping technology" --- which The Governator has coyly admitted is "not without limitations".

What happens if, by January 1, 2010, the "microstamping technology" has still not been proven? Oh, no problem: the bill is not enforceable until " ... the Department of Justice certifies that the technology used to create the imprint is available to more than one manufacturer unencumbered by any patent restrictions."

Another consideration is that, even though the assumption is that the microstamp will be either on the firing pin (imprints on the primer) or on the breechface (imprinting on the base of the case), the actual text of the bill requires that the firearm be "... designed and equipped with a microscopic array of characters that identify the make, model, and serial number of the pistol, etched or otherwise imprinted in two or more places on the interior surface or internal working parts of the pistol, and that are transferred by imprinting on each cartridge case when the firearm is fired ..."

Technically, this requires not ONE but TWO imprinting arrangements, which more than doubles the technological challenge. Nobody seems to have questioned whether the primer is considered part of the 'case', as the term is used (but not defined) in the law.

The effect on the manufacture and sale of new guns
is also uncertain. We can only look back on the 2006 "Drop Safety Requirements" to discern the guidelines. You will recall that this law (section 12128 of the California Penal Code) required handgun manufacturers to submit THREE handguns of the specific make and model for testing ... which includes dropping all three handguns on a concrete surface from a height of about 40". If any handgun fails any of the six tests, the make and model will not be certified for sale (failure is if the cocked hammer falls.) This is obviously 'testing to destruction' as the handguns will not be suitable for resale -- being as they are likely to be all dinged up!

Some manufacturers (STI specifically, with 25 models of 'semi-automatic pistols' in their current line) refused to yield to this unreasonable obligation. Manufacturers who gave in to the last (Act I: 2004) round of excessive gun-control legislation are likely to take a second look at the profitability of selling to California buyers when Act II becomes effective.

One more time, just for the record: this is not a safety issue, this is not a 'crime stopping' issue, it's not even a 'crime solving' issue.

It's a back-door 'gun control' issue ... just one more way to keep firearms out of the hands of honest citizens. And that means that by signing the bill, Arnold the Barbarian has signed the bill for purely political reasons.

He wants to be re-elected.

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