Microstamping & Ballistic Identification in California

See our Microstamping & Ballistic Identification policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Microstamping: In 2007, California became the first jurisdiction in the nation to enact legislation requiring handgun microstamping. Microstamping means equipping a firearm with a microscopic array of characters that can be used to identify the make, model, and serial number of the firearm, that are etched in two or more places on the interior surface or internal working parts of the firearm, and that are transferred by imprinting on each cartridge case when the firearm is fired.1 Microstamping would enable law enforcement to use California’s handgun purchaser database to match a cartridge case found at a crime scene to the individual who purchased the handgun. The technology is a valuable crime-fighting tool because it helps law enforcement solve gun crimes where the actual firearms have not been recovered.

California’s Crime Gun Identification Act of 2007 requires all new models of semiautomatic pistols manufactured for sale in the state to be designed and equipped with microstamping technology. The law stated that it would go into effect as soon as the state Department of Justice (“DOJ”) certified that the technology used to create the imprint is available to more than one manufacturer unencumbered by any patent restrictions.2 DOJ certified that such technology is available unencumbered by any patent restrictions on May 17, 2013.3 However, this requirement has been challenged by the gun lobby in federal court and the outcome of this litigation is still pending.

DOJ may also approve a method of equal or greater reliability and effectiveness in identifying the specific serial number of a firearm from spent cartridge casings discharged by that firearm to be thereafter required if this new method is also unencumbered by any patent restrictions.4

Ballistics Identification: In 2007, California adopted a law, effective January 1, 2009, authorizing local law enforcement agencies to enter representative samples of fired bullets and cartridge cases collected at crime scenes, from test-fires of firearms recovered at crime scenes, and other firearm information needed to investigate crimes into the U.S. Department of Justice, National Integrated Ballistic Information network (“NIBIN”).5 The law also requires the California DOJ to develop a protocol for law enforcement agencies to submit this information to NIBIN.6

In addition, in 2000, California adopted a law that required the Attorney General to conduct a study evaluating the feasibility and potential benefits of a statewide ballistics identification system.7 The Attorney General’s report, released to the public on January 29, 2003, states that automated ballistics fingerprinting systems are already assisting forensic experts using relatively small databases to compare cartridge cases recovered at crime scenes, and noted that the expansion of such databases to include hundreds of thousands of newly-manufactured firearms may potentially serve as a vital crime-solving tool. The report cautions, however, that under existing technology, adding the large volume of new guns sold in California could overburden the fingerprinting database, while providing limited useful forensic information to criminal investigators. The Attorney General is optimistic that technology will evolve rapidly to overcome these barriers to an effective ballistics fingerprinting system in California, and noted that further studies on the system are underway.8

  1. Cal. Penal Code § 31910(b)(7). ⤴︎
  2. Cal. Penal Code § 31910(b)(7)(A), 32000. ⤴︎
  3. See Cal. Dept. of Justice, Firearms Bureau, Certification of Microstamping Technology Bureau of Firearms pursuant to Penal Code section 31910, subdivision (b)(7)(A) (May 17, 2013), at http://oag.ca.gov/sites/all/files/agweb/pdfs/firearms/infobuls/2013-BOF-03.pdf. ⤴︎
  4. Cal. Penal Code § 31910(b)(7)(B). ⤴︎
  5. Cal. Penal Code § 11108.10(a). ⤴︎
  6. Cal. Penal Code § 11108.10(b). ⤴︎
  7. Cal. Penal Code § 34350. ⤴︎
  8. California Department of Justice, Feasibility of a California Ballistics Identification System (January 2003), available at: http://oag.ca.gov/sites/all/files/pdfs/firearms/pdf/03-013_report.pdf?. ⤴︎

Microstamping & Ballistic Identification in Connecticut

Connecticut requires that the Division of Scientific Services (Division) of the Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection establish a firearms evidence databank.1 The databank is a computer-based system that scans a “test fire” (discharged ammunition consisting of a cartridge case or bullet or fragment thereof containing sufficient microscopic characteristics to compare with other discharged ammunition) from a handgun and stores an image of the test fire in a manner suitable for retrieval and comparison to other test fires and other evidence in a criminal investigation.2

The databank may be used to: 1) compare two or more cartridge cases, bullets or other projectiles submitted to the Division laboratory or produced at the laboratory from a handgun; or 2) verify by microscopic examination any resulting match upon the request of a police department as part of a criminal investigation.3 Any image of a cartridge case, bullet or fragment of a cartridge or bullet that is not matched by a databank search shall be stored in the databank for future searches.4

A police department shall submit to the laboratory any handgun that comes into police custody as the result of a criminal investigation, as found property, or for destruction, prior to the return or the destruction of the handgun.5 The laboratory shall collect a test fire from each submitted handgun within 60 days of submission, and label the test fire with the handgun manufacturer, type of weapon, serial number, date of the test fire and name of the person collecting the test fire.6 Police departments are required to collect a test fire from every handgun that is to be issued to an employee.7

The Division may permit a police department that complies with all laboratory guidelines and regulations adopted by the Commissioner of Emergency Services and Public Protection regarding the operation of the databank to: 1) collect test fires from handguns that come into the custody of the police department; 2) set up a remote terminal to enter test fire images directly into the databank; and 3) search the databank.8

The laboratory may share databank information with other law enforcement agencies, both within and outside Connecticut, and may participate in a national firearms evidence databank program.9

Connecticut has no laws regarding firearm microstamping.

See our Ballistic Identification policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

  1. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 29-7h(b)(1). ⤴︎
  2. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 29-7h(a)(1), (5). ⤴︎
  3. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 29-7h(b)(2). ⤴︎
  4. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 29-7h(b)(3). ⤴︎
  5. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 29-7h(c)(1). ⤴︎
  6. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 29-7h(c)(2). ⤴︎
  7. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 29-7h(d)(1). ⤴︎
  8. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 29-7h(b)(4). ⤴︎
  9. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 29-7h(e). Additional requirements for submitting test fires and handguns to the database and for searching the database are detailed under Conn. Agencies Regs. §§ 29-7h-1—29-7h-6. ⤴︎

Microstamping & Ballistic Identification in Delaware

By a law that became effective on September 14, 2016, it is the state policy of Delaware for its law-enforcement agencies to employ electronic technology and inter-jurisdictional information and analysis sharing programs to deter and solve gun crimes.1

As part of this policy, law enforcement agencies that recover firearms or spent shell casings at the scene of a crime must submit ballistics information, as soon as possible, to the National Integrated Ballistics Identification Network.2 This will help determine whether the firearm in question is related to a prior crime or to an individual who may be associated with prior criminal activity.

In addition, the Department of Safety and Homeland Security, in cooperation with the Department of Justice, must develop and promulgate a statewide standard protocol for the recovery and forensic processing of firearms and firearm-related evidence where the gun was used for any unlawful purpose or recovered from the scene of a crime.3

See our Ballistic Identification and  Firearm Microstamping policy summary for comprehensive discussions of these issues.

  1. Del. Code Ann. tit. 11, § 8101. ⤴︎
  2. Del. Code Ann. tit. 11, § 8102(a)-(b). ⤴︎
  3. Del. Code Ann. tit. 11, § 8102(c). ⤴︎