Monday, August 28, 2023

New Jersey Appears Set on Replicating California's Unsuccessful Microstamping Requirements

(AP Photo/Reed Saxon, File)

New Jersey is making a concerted effort to emulate California on the Eastern Seaboard, albeit without the pleasant climate, the allure of Hollywood, or renowned vineyards. However, when it comes to firearm regulations, New Jersey matches California almost point for point, including the controversial microstamping rules. However, a federal court recently determined that California's microstamping mandates violated the Second Amendment, something New Jersey should consider.

Attorney General Matt Platkin of New Jersey recently stated that his office has laid out criteria and a process for including handguns in the state's microstamping-approved list. Governor Phil Murphy enacted legislation in 2022 to mandate handguns be certified as having microstamping tech that consistently applies a unique code to ammunition.

Despite the enthusiasm, there's a caveat. Independent research suggests that microstamping doesn't reliably function as claimed, which might explain why New York has yet to implement its own requirement. New Jersey will need to review this data if they're to make an informed decision.

Microstamping employs laser engraving to apply a distinctive set of characters onto a gun's firing pin. The idea is that when a bullet is fired, the unique identifier would be transferred to the cartridge, making it easier for law enforcement to link spent cartridges to specific firearms. However, real-world testing has challenged this theory.

A Department of Justice-sponsored study found that microstamping was far from the cure-all solution its advocates claimed. Issues ranged from the inconsistency in marking to the varying designs of firing pins across manufacturers. Moreover, even the patent-holder, Todd Lizotte, participated in research that questioned the practicality and cost-effectiveness of large-scale microstamping implementation.

It raises concerns about the financial and legal implications for gun manufacturers, who would need to incur a roughly $200 increase in production costs per firearm. Given that both California and New Jersey allow lawsuits against gun manufacturers for misuse by criminals, this is a significant consideration. The technology's ineffectiveness has been noted by experts and confirmed by studies, yet states seem keen to proceed with it.

In terms of next steps, the New Jersey Attorney General's announcement is an initial move towards realizing what appears to be a flawed regulatory ambition. If New Jersey plans to continue down this path, it would be wise to consult with New York and consider the same shortcomings that have so far prevented their neighbors from moving ahead with similar legislation. 

So, as New Jersey contemplates following California's gun control agenda, it needs to carefully consider the effectiveness and implications of enforcing technology that may not be ready for real-world application. Like microstamping itself, promises of increased public safety may prove to be more symbolic than substantive.

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