Bill to Compel Gun Industry to Adopt New Safety Features Heads to Governor’s Desk

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Legislation would strengthen Unsafe Handgun Act, making way for microstamping technology and new safety features

Sacramento, CA—Legislation authored by Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco) to reduce gun fatalities by requiring the gun industry to produce handguns with greater safety features passed the Assembly floor on a concurrence vote today and now heads to Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk for his signature. Assembly Bill 2847 would strengthen the Unsafe Handgun Act (UHA) and open up the use of microstamping technology in order to solve firearm-related crimes.

“Implementing microstamping technology and these other safety features has been a long time coming in California,” said Assemblymember Chiu. “This policy will save lives. I look forward to the Governor signing this common sense measure into law.”

The UHA became California law in 1999 to fill gaps in federal regulations that allow outdated gun models prone to malfunction to remain in the market. In 2007, the UHA was updated with provisions that required all new handgun models to have a chamber load indicator to signify when a gun is loaded and a magazine disconnect mechanism to prevent a gun from firing when the magazine is removed.

In 2007, an additional piece of legislation was signed into law to strengthen the UHA by requiring “microstamping” technology to be incorporated on all new semiautomatic pistol models.

With microstamping, a unique, microscopic set of characters is imprinted on the bullet cartridge casing when a weapon is fired. The use of this technology would be a critical crime solving tool for law enforcement as it would allow them to definitively match casings with the weapon they were fired from. Given that the characters imprinted on a bullet casing are unique to each firearm, this technology would allow for better tracking of firearms that are involved in crimes.

The gun industry has not introduced any new handgun models into the California market since the 2007 laws were passed. Thus, Californians have not benefited from microstamping technology or the other safety requirements that were also passed in 2007 to require a chamber load indicator or magazine disconnect mechanism.

AB 2847 eases compliance with the UHA by requiring that new handgun models include one microstamp as opposed to the previous requirement of two. Gun industry representatives have conceded in legal proceedings that one microstamp is within their technological capabilities. The bill prompts the gun industry to quickly introduce new, compliant models on to the market by instructing the Attorney General to remove three previously grandfathered handgun models from the state roster of handguns certified for sale for each new compliant handgun model that is introduced.

AB 2847 was sponsored by the California Chapters of Brady United Against Gun Violence and Alameda District Attorney Nancy O’Malley.  

“This law will have a direct and lasting effect in the fight to end gun violence. California’s cities and neighborhoods are plagued by shootings  and AB 2847 provides a smart and realistic tool to identify and prosecute gun crimes. The unique microstamp on each handgun will allow law enforcement and  district attorneys to identify criminals and hold them accountable. It is imperative that we do all we can to stop the seemingly endless horror of gun violence in our state,” says DA O’Malley. “I thank Assemblymember Chiu for authoring this legislation as well as our cosponsors, the Brady Campaign.”

"California was the first state in the nation to enact microstamping requirements for firearms, in order to give law enforcement critical investigative tools to solve handgun crime,” said Mattie Scott, President of Brady California United Against Gun Violence. “That bill was passed in 2007 and still no guns have been sold in California with this technology due to countless hurdles put in place by the gun industry and lobby. I know first hand why this law matters. My son George’s case remains unsolved nearly 14 years later. Microstamping policies could have helped to solve my son’s case. Assemblymember Chiu’s bill will finally give law enforcement the critical first step in identifying those responsible for the daily acts of gun violence and apprehending them before they do more harm. These policies give hundreds of Mothers, Fathers and parents like myself, and particularly people of color, whose cases remain unsolved for over 30 plus years hope. We applaud Assemblymember Chiu for introducing this lifesaving policy and look forward to seeing his bill signed into law.”

“Assemblymember Chiu’s bill, AB 2847, will ensure that new semiautomatic handgun models are introduced that incorporate microstamping technology,” said Griffin Dix, volunteer with Brady United Against Gun Violence Oakland/Alameda County Chapter. “This will help solve gun crimes. The new handgun models that are introduced will also have life-saving safety features, such as chamber loaded indicators. My son, Kenzo, was killed in an unintentional shooting with a handgun that did not have a prominent chamber loaded indicator. If the gun had one, he would be alive today. Kenzo was visiting the home of his good friend when, without telling him, the boy went to his father’s room and got the semiautomatic handgun that his father kept there, unlocked. When the boy removed the loaded magazine from the gun, he thought he’d unloaded it. He came back into his room where my son was and pulled the trigger, expecting to hear only a click. The bullet still hidden in the chamber smashed through my son’s shoulder and into his heart, killing him. When Assemblymember Chiu’s bill becomes law, fewer deaths like this will happen. Semiautomatic handguns sold in California will not only have microstamping, they will also have chamber loaded indicators and other safety features. This bill will make Californians safer, and save many lives.”

Law enforcement from across California are coming together to support AB 2847, including California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer, Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley, Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton, San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen, and San Francisco Sheriff Paul Miyamoto.

"Microstamping firearms--so a bullet cartridge can be traced to a crime gun--protects public safety by giving law enforcement essential leads in tracking down the shooter,” said Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer. “That's why I authored the original microstamping legislation, and why I'm proud to strongly support AB 2847, by Assemblymember Chiu. AB 2847 will update this important law and move us forward in implementing a crucial public safety tool."  

Governor Newsom will have until September 30 to sign AB 2847.

###