Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Encoded Ammunition: Washington

Washington is the state most recently reported to have proposed a bill requiring "micro-serializing of ammunition".

And I missed it.

It's not a matter of unconcern as much as a personal attempt to 'have a life'. See, I went to a USPSA match this weekend, and I'm spending all my spare after-work time editing videos taken there. It's as if I went on vacation.

Fortunately, our pal Phil of Random Nuclear Strikes (aka "Soft Green Glow") is picking up the slack. Monday night he wrote about Washington House Bill HB3359, which is generally similar to bills discussed here last week.

The bill title is cleverly non-specific: "Concerning Pistol Ammunition" is not a title which is easily found during the usual GOOGLE search, or even searching the list of bills proposed in that particular legislative branch of that particular state. Phil's diligence is due to the fact that he is a Washington State Resident, is a blogger, and is very much on the look-out for surreptitious attempts to insert spurious bills gun control bills in his state's legislature.

This bill was introduced on February 7, 2008, and was sponsored by:

Representatives O'Brien, Williams, Flannigan, Pedersen

(pay attention to these names; they are not your friends.)

The text of the bill is available here as a pdf.

I have added the specifics in the ongoing "Geek's List" project, but here's the short list of provisions:

  • Effective date: 1-1-2010
  • Information reported: Buyer Name, DOB, DL#, "anything else we can think of"
  • Ammunition Vendors must REGISTER with the state
  • Vendor reporting penalty: misdemeanor
  • Buyer penalties: misdemeanor
  • Database information NOT available to public
  • The bill requires an 'unique' serial number to be etched on each bullet, but does not define 'unique'. Each bullet must be different? I don't know. The term 'box' is used, but not defined.
  • The bill also requires that the 'unique' serial number be etched onto the "inside of the cartridge casing" !!!
  • The bill applies to 'pistol ammunition', which is not defined.
  • Terms which ARE defined include "pistol" (essentially, barrel length less than 16 inches), "Shotgun", "Crime of Violence" (including Vehicular Homicide and a bunch of other crimes which are probably defined elsewhere);
  • Also defined here: "The unique alphanumeric identifier is engraved in such a manner that it is highly likely to permit identification after ammunition discharge and bullet impact";
  • No per-round or per-bullet 'tax' is defined.
  • There is, curiously, no specified date upon which it is illegal to possess 'noncoded' ammunition.
Summary: without the "not lawful to possess 'noncoded' ammunition', this bill doesn't force Washington residents to dispose of previously owned ammunition, or ammunition (or components, for reloaders) which have been acquired from 'out of state'. In that respect, it is (in its present form) marginally less egregious than similar bills proposed in other states.

This is not cause for rejoicing. This is still a bill which represents an end-run on the 2nd Amendment, in that it serves no legitimate practical purpose such as ... hell, I don't know. What legitimate purpose could be served here, except to make ammunition so expensive to manufacture that it effectively prices ammunition beyond the resources of the average law-abiding citizen?

No ammunition manufacturer would be willing to meet the onerous requirements cited here. It is especially telling that this bill would not only require the (impractical) serialization of bullets, but also the (ultimately impractical) serialization of the cartridge case ... on the inside of the case! I cannot imagine any bulk-quantity manufacturing process which would meet the former requirement, but the latter requirement is impossible.

Of course, there are as usual no provisions for delay of enaction of this bill if the requirements are not possible by current technology, let alone reliable and economical mass-production processes.

In short, this is the most impossible-to-comply-with bill which has ever been introduced to any state legislature, to date.

UPDATE: Friday, February 15, 2008

In a comment posted to this article this morning, denib said:

This bill is dead!!

My representative sent me the following on Thursday:
"I want you to know I am opposed to this measure. I am glad to report that the bill has failed to pass out of its committee before a critical deadline. Consequently, the measure is ineligible for further consideration this session."

Woohoo! (for now)

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