California Forum

Another View: Gun advocates should work to make guns safer

Larry Keane of the National Shooting Sports Foundation portrays microstamping technology as an existential threat to firearm reliability ( “Gun law costs us consumer safety,” Viewpoints, March 2). His organization has spent the last 50 years blocking attempts to make guns safer for consumers.

The notion that the gun industry is waiting to make safer guns if only regulators would let them is laughable. Manufacturers working through the National Rifle Association successfully lobbied Congress to exempt the gun industry from Consumer Product Safety Commission regulation in 1972.

Three decades later, the gun lobby persuaded Congress and then-President George W. Bush to immunize the industry from lawsuits concerning lack of safety technology. Presently, the industry is working to dismantle California’s safety requirements such as the installation of indicators to make it clear when the chamber of a gun is loaded.

The gun lobby’s opposition to regulation does not stem from an honest belief in free-market principles. When Smith & Wesson, under prior ownership, attempted to incorporate modest safety improvements to the design and distribution of its firearms in 2000, the company was boycotted to the brink of extinction by the NRA. What did the shooting sports foundation do to protect Smith & Wesson? Nothing.

Keane is wrong that microstamping technology is flawed.

A firearm equipped with microstamping technology would transfer a unique code to an expended cartridge case. That code would be linked to the firearm’s serial number. At crime scenes, expended cartridge cases, and not firearms, typically are recovered. Without an intentional microstamp, the forensic examiner can merely analyze the unintentionally made tool marks on an expended cartridge case, which yield little information unless the crime gun is found. An intentional microstamp, however, would be like a license plate. It would lead directly to a serial number, which would help identify the purchaser. The gun itself never needs to be recovered.

Microstamping would provide exponentially more ballistics information than is available today for $3 to $6 per firearm. A recent study published in the Association of Firearm and Tool Mark Examiners Journal found that “despite shortcomings, microstamping does have the potential to place valuable information into the hands of the officer or detective at the scene of a crime in a timely fashion.”

Here’s my suggestion: Instead of whining and pouting, maybe Keane and shooting sports foundation members should roll up their sleeves, show a little American ingenuity and get the job done, for the betterment of law enforcement and the people of California.