SAN FRANCISCO — A hotly contested California gun-control law that was passed in 2007 is finally ready to be implemented, Attorney General Kamala Harris said this week: a requirement that every new semiautomatic handgun contain "micro-stamping" technology that would allow police to trace a weapon from cartridges found at a crime scene.
The law, signed by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, made California the first state to require micro-stamping, which engraves the gun's serial number on each cartridge. But the legislation specified that it would take effect only when the technology was available and all private patents had expired.
Gun owners group Calguns Foundation tried to forestall the law at one point by paying a $555 fee in an attempt to extend a patent held by the inventor, who wanted it to lapse. Gun manufacturers said the technology was expensive and ineffective, and a National Rifle Association lawyer has threatened a lawsuit.
But at a Los Angeles news conference Friday, Harris announced that micro-stamping had cleared all technological and patenting hurdles and would be required on newly sold semiautomatics, effective immediately.
"The patents have been cleared, which means that this very important technology will help us as law enforcement in identifying and locating people who have illegally used firearms," Harris said.
Attorney Benjamin Van Houten of the San Francisco-based Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence said the announcement
should send a message to other states, the Obama administration and the gun industry that "this is the future and it's really critical to helping law enforcement solve gun crimes."