New Report from Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence:

Microstamping: A Technology to Help Solve Gun Crimes, Identify Gun Trafficking Networks, Reduce Gun Violence

WASHINGTON — Microstamping, a technology that stamps alpha-numeric code onto a gun’s cartridge case as it is fired, is a reliable tool that can help solve gun crimes, identify gun trafficking networks and reduce gun violence in turn helping to foster better relationships between law enforcement and communities with disproportionately high rates of unsolved gun crimes. These are the conclusions of a new report released today by the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence (EFSGV), a national leader in the effort to require microstamping technology.

Today, Tuesday, Feb. 2, at 11 a.m. PST / 2 p.m. EST, EFSGV is hosting an online discussion on the value and tremendous potential of microstamping technology. The conversation will feature report authors and contributors as well as the co-inventor of microstamping technology. Please register online.

The report comes as U.S. gun homicides sharply increased in 2020, a troubling percentage of which go unsolved each year. To maximize the potential of the technology, the EFSGV report recommends that state and federal lawmakers take action by requiring that new semi-automatic pistols come equipped with the invaluable technology.

“Microstamping is a ready to implement technology that holds tremendous potential to address our current crises of rising gun violence and lack of trust in law enforcement due in part to unconscionably low clearance rates for gun crime investigations, especially in Black communities,” said Josh Horwitz, Executive Director of the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence. “Microstamping is a small technology that will lead to big changes — a reduction in gun violence, less gun trafficking, more trust in law enforcement, and more justice for victims and their families.”

Microstamping is a ballistics identification technology that allows law enforcement officers to quickly link cartridge cases found at crime scenes to the firearm from which they were discharged. A microstamped firearm has a unique code microscopically engraved into the gun’s firing pin which is then stamped onto each cartridge case when the gun is fired. Law enforcement can match spent cartridge casings to a specific firearm in the same way law enforcement uses a license plate to quickly identify the make, model, VIN, and registered owner of a car.

“Microstamping would revolutionize the existing ballistics identification process, which currently requires a recovered firearm and significant time and resources,” said Ari Davis, Policy Analyst at the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence. “Within hours, microstamping provides a direct link between a spent cartridge case and a firearm – even when the firearm is not recovered — and can link it to other shootings where the same firearm was used which could help identify gun trafficking networks.”

In a letter opening the report, Orrin Gallop, Assistant Chief, Commander of Investigative Services, Hampton (Virginia) Police Division, said, “A recovered microstamped shell casing would provide law enforcement immediately with the name of the first purchaser of the firearm. This allows for a more focused investigation, and the first step in the roadmap of how the weapon made its way from the first purchaser to the crime scene. This has the potential to help law enforcement quickly and effectively solve gun-related crimes while limiting negative interactions with law enforcement, especially in minority communities.”

The majority of shootings and gun homicides across the country go unsolved each year, especially in under-resourced Black communities that are disproportionately impacted by gun violence. One analysis of arrests in major U.S. cities found that law enforcement made arrests in only 35% of firearm homicides overall, and in 21% of firearm assaults when the victim was Black or Hispanic. Unsolved cases lead victims of gun violence and the larger community to lose trust in law enforcement’s ability to bring about justice. This lack of trust can lead to increases in gun carrying and retaliatory shootings as victims seek to protect themselves and carry out justice on their own. Microstamping can help stop this cycle by giving law enforcement a powerful tool to quickly analyze evidence, accurately close cases, and begin to rebuild trust.

Resistance to microstamping has come almost entirely from gun manufacturers, who refuse to incorporate the easy to deploy technology. In 2007, the California State Legislature passed a microstamping law that the industry fought for years; in 2020 California revised the law to increase incentives for manufacturers to bring microstamped models to market. The EFSGV report recommends federal and state legislation to require the technology in all new semi-automatic pistols sold across the country.

The full report is available online as part of the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence’s resource library, which also includes state- and county-level statistics about gun deaths; extensive analysis of U.S. firearm homicide, firearm suicide, and community gun violence; and research on gun violence prevention policies such as extreme risk protection laws, universal background checks and microstamping.


About the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence

The Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence is a 501(c)(3) affiliate organization of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, the nation’s oldest gun violence prevention organization. EFSGV uses a public health and equity lens to identify and implement evidence-based policy solutions and programs to reduce gun violence in all its forms and to make gun violence rare and abnormal. EFSGV is the gun violence prevention movement’s premier research intermediary and founder of the Consortium for Risk-Based Firearm Policy, a group of academics and practitioners who collaborate to develop innovative recommendations for policymakers.

February 2, 2021

Tom Fazzini, West End Strategy Team; 202-505-1210