ABC News’ Teddy Davis Reports: California may soon become the first state to require all new models of semiautomatic handguns to be equipped with microstamping technology that imprints traceable codes on bullet casings when fired.
"It’s not a panacea," California Assembly member Mike Feuer, the bill’s author, told ABC News, "but it will solve some gun crimes and prevent some people from being killed."
Feuer said the microstamping technology, which was approved on a 21-17 vote in the state Senate on Thursday, would allow law enforcement to more easily develop leads when investigating shootings. Forty-five percent of the 2,000 homicides which took place in California last year went unsolved.
Gun-related measures have fallen out of favor with national Democrats in recent years. In his post-White House memoir, President Bill Clinton partly blamed the federal Assault Weapons Ban that he signed for the Democrats’ loss of Congress in 1994. There was further handwringing among Democrats after the 2000 election in which former Vice President Gore’s support for stricter gun limits bled support among white males in rural areas.
Sensitive to the political pitfalls presented by most gun-related measures, Feuer has gone out of his way to eschew the "gun control" label. He recruited widespread support from law enforcement and stresses at every turn that his legislation, the "Crime Gun Identification Act," does not apply to existing guns and does not restrict people’s right to bear arms.
The bill now goes back to the Assembly for approval of changes which were made to it in the state Senate before heading to Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has not yet taken a position on it, for his signature or veto. It would take effect in 2010 and apply only to new guns.
While California might soon become the first state to require microtamping, similar requirements might soon spread elsewhere. Massachusetts and Rhode Island introduced similar legislation this year and law enforcement officials in Maryland have promoted consideration in that state. On Capitol Hill, Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., and Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif, have taken steps to promote microstamping on the federal level. Advocates of the technology think this is crucial since guns used in crimes often cross state borders.
Matt Bennett, a former gun control advocate who now runs "Third Way," a group that promotes a centrist Democratic agenda, welcomed the progress of microstamping in the Golden State and told ABC News that California’s gun market is so large that gun manufacturers outside the state might begin to adopt microstamping absent federal legislation because it would not make economic sense to produce two versions of the same gun.