“Forensic testing of ammunition used in a crime is the most effective way of tracing criminal activity.”
– Former Republican Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger
Ballistic identification is the science of using a ballistic fingerprint to identify the specific firearm used in a shooting. A comprehensive ballistic identification system would connect a bullet or cartridge case recovered at a crime scene directly to the make, model and serial number of the gun from which it was fired.
A technology called “microstamping” has made comprehensive ballistic identification a reality. Microstamping technology utilizes lasers to make microscopic engravings on the breech face and firing pin of a gun. As the gun is fired, a code identifying the weapon’s serial number is stamped onto the cartridge. This enables police to trace a gun without ever physically recovering it. A traced firearm is a valuable lead in a criminal investigation, because investigators can then connect that weapon to its first purchaser, who may become either a suspect or a source of information helpful to the investigation.
On October 13, 2007, Then-California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger made history by signing a first-of-its-kind microstamping bill into law. The District of Columbia enacted a similar microstamping law in January 2009. The technology promises to revolutionize the way law enforcement officials investigate homicides and other gun crimes.
Fact Sheet: Microstamping Myths Debunked
Police Chief Magazine: Intentional Firearm Microstamping: A Technology to Help Solve Gun Crimes and Reduce Violence
Ed Fund Report: Microstamping Technology: Precise and Proven
Editorial: Stamping Out Violence