A Victory For Law Enforcement in California

In California now, police will be able to use shell casings that a gun fired, marked with the make, model and serial number of the weapon to trace the gun back to its first purchaser.
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California police got some welcome news this weekend.

On Saturday, October 13, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger sided with over 65 police chiefs, sheriffs and police organizations - representing cities and towns across the state of California - and signed the Crime Gun Identification Act of 2007 into law. This bill requires that, by 2010, all semi-automatic handguns sold in the state of California be fitted with a technology to help police officers solve gun crimes faster -- even when the gun is unavailable.

A fuller discussion of this technology, called "microstamping," is available here [.wmv file] in an excellent video presentation, as well as in a blog entry I posted back in August. In a nutshell, a firearm that is fitted with the technology has microscopic marks of the make, model and serial number of the weapon engraved on the firing pin, as well as other parts inside the weapon. Each time the handgun is fired, these engravings are impressed on the primer cap and other parts of the shell casing. These shell-casing marks are then visible under a scanning electron microscope -- standard equipment used in almost all crime labs.

Approximately 45 percent of all homicides in California go unsolved due to lack of evidence. Roughly 60 percent of homicides in California are committed with handguns, according to 2004 data, and about 70 percent of new handguns sold in California are semi-automatic. Oftentimes, the only evidence left behind at the scene of a gun crime are the shell casings. No gun to be found. The Crime Gun Identification Act is targeted at precisely this problem. Now, police will be able to use shell casings that the gun fired - marked with the make, model and serial number of the weapon - to trace the gun back to its first purchaser. That means more gun crimes solved - and fewer criminals on the street.

The Brady Campaign was proud to help the determined efforts of Assemblyman Mike Feuer (D-42) and our California Brady Chapters, and join the overwhelming law enforcement support of this bill, including: the California Police Chiefs Association, the Orange County Chiefs' and Sheriff's Association, the Peace Officers Research Association of California (PORAC), and the Los Angeles Police Protective League, in addition to 65 police chiefs and sheriffs throughout the state.

Sadly, the gun lobby - led the National Rifle Association, the gun manufacturers' trade association, and the extremist Gun Owners of California - fought bitterly to kill this bill. But Gov. Schwarzenegger saw past all that and found the clear preference of California police.

The choice was simple.

In his signing message, the Governor reaffirmed that "Public safety is one of the most important roles of government" and he is right. As a former mayor, I had the same duty to protect the public safety of my city and support police officers in their difficult work. It is gratifying to see a fellow Republican stand up to the gun lobby, support the needs of law enforcement, and do what's right for the people who elected him.

Saturday was indeed a good day for law enforcement - and for the people of California.


Note that tomorrow is the six-month anniversary of the Virginia Tech massacre. Survivors and surviving family members will make a trip to Capitol Hill here in Washington, D.C. tomorrow morning, and urge passage of the NICS Improvement Act (H.R. 2640), a bill designed to fill gaps in the Brady background check law that allowed the Virginia Tech killer to get his guns from gun stores. I will post a blog some time after the families' presentation is finished and describe the day's events.

(Note to readers: This entry, along with past entries, has been co-posted on bradycampaign.org/blog and the Huffington Post.)

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