Saturday, July 9, 2005

Police officials and gun rights advocates are worried that two pieces of legislation pending in the California Assembly could do considerable harm to the firearms industry and to national security.

A bill introduced by Assemblyman Paul Koretz, a Democrat from West Hollywood, would require that all guns manufactured in the state be equipped with microstamping technology, which would allow law-enforcement personnel to track guns used in crimes as well as who purchased the weapon.

A companion bill introduced by state Sen. Joseph Dunn, a Democrat, would require manufacturers to laser imprint serial numbers on each bullet casing and register the numbers with the Justice Department.

Gun rights advocates said the passage of either bill would result in the destruction of California’s ammunition industry.

“Any manufacturer that attempted to comply with the legislation would be bankrupted, because the costs to build a laser imprinting device would be the same as, well, they would have to build a new factory,” said Lawrence Keane, general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation. “The bill would become a de facto ban on ammunition in California.”

In letters to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, two lawmakers said the legislation would harm national security.

“The end result of more expensive ammunition would be a reduction in cartridges available for target practice, which would leave our armed forces and law enforcement vulnerable on the battlefield and on America’s streets,” said Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

Rep. Don Young, Alaska Republican, who soon will be named chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said the effectiveness of imprinting technology has not been proved.

“There has not been a comprehensive peer-reviewed study regarding any potential benefits to law enforcement,” Mr. Young said.

Mr. Koretz acknowledged that it is unlikely Mr. Schwarzenegger, a Republican, would sign both bills, but Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, said the legislation would help protect Americans from gun violence and urged the governor to support Mr. Dunn’s bill.

“In short, [the bill] would give our nation’s first responders the tools they need to keep criminals off the street and keep our homeland secure,” she said.

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