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Gun & Ammo Makers Fight California Law

FRESNO, Calif. (CN) - A gun group and ammunition makers sued California, claiming a law requiring microstamping of semi-automatic pistols sold in the state will cost them money and may not work.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation and the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers' Institute sued California and its Attorney General Kamala Harris in Superior Court. Both groups are based in Connecticut.

Senate Bill 1080, signed into law on Sept. 30, 2010, took effect May 2013. It requires gun makers to engrave the make, model and serial number on two or more parts of the gun in such a way that the information can be transferred to the cartridge casing when the gun is fired.

The requirement was to become effective if the California Department of Justice certified that such microstamping technology would be available to more than one manufacturer, unencumbered by patent restrictions.

On May 17, 2013, the state Department of Justice certified "that the technology used to create the imprint of the microscopic array of characters" required by the law was available to more than one manufacturer, according to the complaint.

But the gun and ammo makers claim the law cannot be enforced because firearm microstamping technology is "unproven and unreliable."

Todd Lizotte, an inventor of firearm microstamping technology, wrote in an article in the Association of Firearm and Tool Mark Examiners (AFTE) Journal that "legitimate questions exist related both to the technical aspects, production costs, and database management associated with microstamping that should be addressed before wide scale implementation is legislatively mandated," according to the complaint.

The gun makers claim that independent forensic firearm examiners agreed with Lizotte's findings.

"David Howitt, Ph.D., Frederic A. Tulleners and Michael T. Beddow of the Forensic Science Graduate Group at the University of California at Davis stated that 'because its forensic potential has yet to be fully assessed, a mandate for the implementation of this technology in all new semi-automatic handguns sold in the State of California is counter-indicated,'" according to the lawsuit.

An AFTE article by George G. Krivosta, of the Suffolk County, New York crime lab stated that "research has shown that implementing this technology will be much more complicated than burning a serial number on a few parts and dropping them into firearms being manufactured," the complaint states.

The law is preventing gun makers, distributors and retailers from selling semi-automatic pistols in California that are not already on the state-approved handgun roster because they do not want to be subjected to criminal penalties - up to a year in county jail - according to the complaint.

Hunters and recreational target shooters are prevented from buying newly developed semi-automatic pistols that incorporate the latest safety features, the gun makers claim.

They want the law enjoined as invalid.

They are represented by Lance A. Selfridge with Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith, of Los Angeles, and Lawrence Keane of Newtown, Conn.

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