LOS ANGELES – Lawmakers in California now have two bills on the table that could aid in the search for gun-firing assailants.
Forensics investigators currently have the ability to match the unique signature on every bullet to the gun it was fired from. The problem then becomes, for detectives and law enforcement, finding the gun itself and the person who fired it.
California Senate Bill 357 and its sister bill Assembly Bill 352 would have all new guns stamp an I.D. number on shell casings as they fire, and require every semi-automatic handgun sold after Jan. 1, 2009, to be equipped with the new microstamping technology that assigns traceable serial numbers to individual bullets.
According to these proposals, any semi-automatic not on California's Section 12131 roster —the list of weapons that do not possess the ability to create microstamps — will be defined as an "unsafe" handgun.
California state Assemblyman Paul Koretz (search), D-West Hollywood, is one of the bill's authors.
"Imagine how much easier it would be, in the case of my bill microstamping, if there was just a number and you call it into a database and you know exactly who it is in five or 10 minutes," Koretz said.
Critics argue the laws will punish law-abiding citizens and sportsmen by raising costs. Those in the gun and ammo manufacturing business add that they're tired of bearing the brunt of gun crime and accuse lawmakers of targeting their livelihood.
"I will stop selling ammo the day after. So if that's what the lawmakers want, is that guys like me to get out of the ammunition business, then all they have to do is tell me I have to spend 15, 20 minutes to paperwork a $2 box of ammo and I'm out," says Ted Szajer, owner of L.A. Guns.
Opponents insist these laws are just anti-gun politics that penalize law-abiding citizens who do not abuse guns.
Sam Paredes, the Executive Director of the organization Gun Owners of California (search), said recreational use will be adversely affected.
"Small .22 caliber ammunition — that people use to play with and for target practice — the cost of that will be $50, $60, $70 a box if this bill were to go into effect. That isn't going to solve any crimes," he said.
But members of law enforcement and lawmakers and who support the bills call traceable bullets an obvious next step in connecting criminals to their crimes.
The bill proposed by Attorney General Bill Lockyer (search) and supported by the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence has already passed the Assembly and one Senate panel. It is up for further review in August.