View Poll Results: Will this work to improve law enforcement efforts?

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  • This will have no effect on crime using firearms.

    16 61.54%
  • Somewhere in the middle.

    7 26.92%
  • This will be a major improvement for law enforcement.

    3 11.54%
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Thread: Firearm Microstamping: Good, Bad, or another Pipe Dream.

  1. #1

    Default Firearm Microstamping: Good, Bad, or another Pipe Dream.

    Recently, I became aware of a California law passed in 2007 that requires all semi-automatic pistols to have the breach face and firing pin be marked with the make, model, and serial number of the weapon that fired the spent round. This law is supposed to allow easier tracking of spent cartridges found at a crime scene back to a specific firearm without needing to recover the firearm used.

    As the title indicates, I am a little skeptical about this particular method to trace firearms used in crimes. My question for this forum is simple. is this effort worth the expense? Is this even feasible at this time? Basically, will this be good or a waste of money? Please explain your answer.

  2. #2

    Default

    probably would make solving crime alot harder, simply because criminals being crafty people will figure out a way to modify the stamp. After the crime switch it back and walla innocent.

  3. #3

    Default

    The law probably says all new guns. They don't have to stamp all firearms in the state. It will make it easier to solve crime; just like putting a serial number on a gun made it easier to track them. A serial number can be altered, but it can still be recovered. That's not to say that it will be a silver bullet; this will only help though if the gun is registered, which almost never happens with guns used in crimes. They're bought on the black or grey market; it'll give the police a little bit more of a lead, but not much. It will be most helpful in helping identify slugs that are not recognizable, assming that it is not to deformed.

    Let's say it did raise the price. If it raised the price $15 and saved a life, would that not be worth it? If it raised the price and caught a killer, would that not be worth it?

  4. #4
    angelabauer

    Default

    First of all, there is grave doubt that microstamping is even technically feasible.
    Second even if it were possible to extract the serial number of the firearm based on reading the microstamp on a spent shell casing, that would hardly prove the identity of the person firing said weapon.
    Third often the illegal use of a firearm is an impulsive act, so the perp has not considered the consequences.
    Fourth, in a large percentage of crimes involving firearms said weapon was previously reported stolen.

    Currently there is a USA law enforcement database called NIBIN. When spent shell casings are recovered at crime scenes that are placed on the NIBIN scanner which makes notes of tool marks. Those are classified by the scanner, in a similar way to computer classification of finger prints. Then when firearms are recovered in connection to crimes, they are test fired. Those shell casings are also scanned by NIBIN. Almost immediately NIBIN shows potential matches. Until the weapon is found it at least shows the same firearm was used in multiple crimes.

    Of course actual certified expert Firearm and Tool Mark Examiners still need to do traditional comparison so they can testify to the match. Rarely NIBIN provides false matches. There is a suspicion in the forensic profession microstamping might well also provide false matches.

  5. #5

    Default

    Actually micro stamping has already been proved to be more or less worthless. Its very simple to destroy the stamp, also the breech stamp gets rubbed off as the case is ejected so the designers decided with a rear stamp on the case. If you rub a screw driver on the micro stamping its gone, so its not very durable. Also its very easy to go to a pistol range and pick up a pound of brass fired from 30 some different pistols, all a crook has to do is sprinkle a scene with those along with his. Besides its still possible to pick up your spent shell casings or catch them as they eject.

    Either way this system will never prevent crime, its treating a symptom not a cause. Not to mention most firearms used illegally are either stolen or unregistered. I still can't beleive a law was passed for a system the creators say isn't ready to be fielded and all together is flawed. The engineers were simply testing an idea at the time and law makers jumped on it.

    I think most g-men have figured out its easier to attack the ammo supply citing environmental hazards rather than attacking the second amendment. Either way whatever California thinks is good is actually bad for me. I half wish they'd hurry up and sink so I can get my beach front property in Nevada. That's just what I think though so pay it little attention.

    Edit: I see I've been beaten to the point.

  6. #6

    Default

    Sounds like all good reasons to put effort and dollars into coming up with a better way of identifying weapons.

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by angelabauer View Post
    First of all, there is grave doubt that microstamping is even technically feasible.
    Second even if it were possible to extract the serial number of the firearm based on reading the microstamp on a spent shell casing, that would hardly prove the identity of the person firing said weapon.
    Third often the illegal use of a firearm is an impulsive act, so the perp has not considered the consequences.
    Fourth, in a large percentage of crimes involving firearms said weapon was previously reported stolen.

    Currently there is a USA law enforcement database called NIBIN. When spent shell casings are recovered at crime scenes that are placed on the NIBIN scanner which makes notes of tool marks. Those are classified by the scanner, in a similar way to computer classification of finger prints. Then when firearms are recovered in connection to crimes, they are test fired. Those shell casings are also scanned by NIBIN. Almost immediately NIBIN shows potential matches. Until the weapon is found it at least shows the same firearm was used in multiple crimes.

    Of course actual certified expert Firearm and Tool Mark Examiners still need to do traditional comparison so they can testify to the match. Rarely NIBIN provides false matches. There is a suspicion in the forensic profession microstamping might well also provide false matches.
    A very good and comprehensive list as to the potential downfalls of the system. Here's also something to consider:

    I purchased two Colt .38 single-action revolvers for competitive shooting about two years ago, and after everything went through, several cartridges were fired through the guns by the salesman to be submitted for the ballistics database. I then thought of other things that could render the markings on those cases obsolete.

    - Modification of the weapon. On something like those Colts, it's not difficult (and totally feasible for anybody with even limited skill) to change out parts. Firing pins, chambers, and frames can all be replaced with other pins, chambers, and frames, thus immediately making inadequate the information that the database has. In fact, many of these changes are for simple maintenance.

    - Alternate cartridges. While the submitted cartridges were .38 caliber, it's entirely possible to fire .357 cartridges from the same gun, thus causing another potential inaccuracy in the information obtained off of the ballistics markings. Other weapons have other interchangeable calibers.

    - Specialty weapons. Weapons such as the Taurus Judge shoot not only brass-casing ammo, but plastic-cased shells, on which the markings are likely difficult (if not impossible) to secure and identify, thus making initial logging improbable. While they might have a .45 Colt in the database, there'd be nothing keeping someone from dropping one of the .410 shotgun shells in it and doing something dreadful and there being nothing to trace.

    Ballistics databases are imperfect, hard to maintain, and ridiculously expensive to uphold -- I can't honestly see any of these programs truly succeeding in the future.

  8. #8

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    Really if you wanted to kill someone you wouldn't buy your gun from the store, you would either steal it or buy it from someone, like I could buy an unregistered gun if I wanted one it is just a little more expensive and you have to deal with some bad people. Down in Baltimore MD I knew a guy that could get me an unregistered .25 with a silencer and that is more than enough the kill somebody. Gun control only prevents the people who are buying a gun for the right reason from getting one, the people who are using them for the wrong reasons have better ways of getting them.

    Edit: btw I would never buy an unregistered gun because first of all you don't know what it has done and secondly if I ever kill someone it'd be because my life or others were endangered and then I would have no problem using a gun that had my name all over the bullets
    Last edited by Dave; 14-Jul-2009 at 09:35.

  9. #9

    Default

    Um sorry but a .357 will not fit in a .38, however a .38 will fit in a .357 the difference is in the cartridge length. .357 is a good bit longer. Also the sides, firing pin pocket, and rear of the case can all be used during a forensic analysis. It all goes back to the idea of fire formed brass, the cartridge expands, slides back, gets pulled, and all the while has unique marks put into it by the machine that is the firearm.

    As it stands forensics can decide if a cartridge was from a certain weapon or not, microstamping won't really add anything to that considering databases are thriving and work reasonably well. Neither the current forensic analysis of shell casings or microstamping that doesn't work can tell WHO fired a weapon. Plus it will not deter, or prevent crime. However microstamping would only increase the premium for firearms on the black market and higher prices would probably be matched with more drug trafficing to make up the difference in cost (only speculating).

    Still its possible for crooks to get stolen or unregistered firearms. The more crafty can make supressors (not very hard but totally illegal), also it is legal to make your own firearms provided that a caliber have the proper rifling and barrel length, shotguns only have to meet barrel length requirement. However making your own firearm means it cannot leave your hands or be sold and can only be transfered in a will as far as I know. There are procedures people can take to have their home machined firearms serialized though.

    Plus there are still the devices many call "zip guns" which are designed to get at least one shot off so the builder hopes. The most famous example (and scariest) I can think of is dubbed the crypto-bolt gun (google it).

    BTW: I'm with dave on this one entirely.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by BabyKitty View Post
    As it stands forensics can decide if a cartridge was from a certain weapon or not, microstamping won't really add anything to that considering databases are thriving and work reasonably well. Neither the current forensic analysis of shell casings or microstamping that doesn't work can tell WHO fired a weapon.
    I'm pretty sure all forensic comparison can determine is that it is very probable that the cartridge was from a certain weapon or not. Much like making finger print matches.

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