Thursday, October 2, 2008

A gun-control advocate told the D.C. Council’s public safety committee Wednesday that officials should consider adopting a complex method of ballistics tracking to help identify guns used in the city.

“In crime scenes, what we find are cartridges and no guns,” said Joshua Horwitz, executive director of the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence. “Microstamping can provide the link between the gun and cartridge.”

Mr. Horwitz’s comments came during a hearing before the council’s Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary regarding gun laws in the District.

Temporary legislation passed by the council last month aims to comply with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling earlier this year that struck down the District’s handgun ban. The bill will be in effect for 225 days while the council considers permanent legislation.

Microstamping is a process by which a microscopic marking is transferred from the firearm to a cartridge when a gun is fired.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Mr. Horwitz said the stamp could then be matched to a manufacturer and the cartridge traced back to the person who bought the weapon.

In California, microstamping of all new models of semiautomatic handguns will be required by 2010. But Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier, who also testified at the hearing, said she isn’t sold on the practice.

The chief said she would like to strengthen gun laws by educating potential gun owners with a video and having gun owners re-register their weapons every five years.

“More research should be done before [microstamping is] considered,” Chief Lanier said.

D.C. residents currently must register their firearms.

Under the city’s new law, weapons that can fire more than 12 rounds without being reloaded are no longer considered machine guns. The previous definition effectively banned all semiautomatic weapons because magazines of virtually any capacity theoretically can be designed for them.

However, the law still caps magazine capacity at 10 rounds in an effort to ensure that police have more firepower than criminals. Those who wish to purchase guns manufactured to hold more rounds would have to buy magazines modified to hold no more than 10.

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