The U.S. introduces firearm microstamping to try to stop homicides

For several years now, the United States has been experiencing a gun violence and unresolved shooting crisis of disturbing dimensions. Homicides involving a firearm increased by 34% from 2019, becoming the highest rate in the last 15 years. From 2020 to 2021, homicides involving firearms also increased by an additional 8%.

What is most alarming about this tragic phenomenon is that the clearance rates for these homicides are on the decline, with less than half of the murders reported to the FBI being cleared in 2020, the lowest clearance rate on record.

The microstamping technique will allow police to identify the serial numbers engraved on the cartridge case and trace a firearm back to the original gun dealer and purchaser without having to retrieve the gun itself. In this way, this seal can provide police with vital real-time intelligence to help solve shootings and identify firearm traffickers and distributors when appropriate.

Although the research on microstamping is reliable—a study conducted by the American Center for Gun Violence Solutions—and has no impact on firearm functionality, the industry in California has refused to incorporate it into its guns. How does this technology work?

1. Unique codes, consisting of numbers and letters, as well as geometric shapes as a backup, are recorded on the gun’s firing pin. These codes correspond to the serial number of the weapon.

2. Currently, when a gun is fired, the firing pin strikes the cartridge primer (the back end of the bullet cartridge case) and leaves unintentional microscopic marks (such as scratches or dings) on the cartridge case. Microstamping uses these techniques to intentionally print a specific code on the cartridge casing.

3. Microstamping would simplify this process, allowing law enforcement to identify the serial number of the weapon used in a crime, without having to match unintended markings or recover the weapon.

Why should this technology be used?

Microstamping could improve police forces’ ability to deal with weapons and gun violence:

• Quickly identify the weapon used in a shooting without having to retrieve, test and fire it.

• Provide information on multiple shootings carried out with the same weapon and identify suspects.

• Easily locate more weapons involved in a crime, providing information on how weapons are diverted to the illegal market and used in crimes.

• Help identify clues, solve shootings and imprison perpetrators.

• Eliminate bias in the current firearms identification process used in prosecutions by providing clear evidence—a code on a cartridge—rather than the subjective analysis of scratches and marks carried out by firearm surveyors. This would have the potential to reduce racial inequalities within the criminal legality of the system.

Reduce the diversion of guns to the black market for firearms, where they are prone to being used in violent crimes that disproportionately harm African-American and Hispanic-Latino communities.


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