In his 2012-2013 Executive Budget, Gov. Andrew Cuomo zeroed out the Combined Ballistics Identification System. Without CoBis, lawmakers believe there is a “hole” in law enforcement’s ability to solve gun crimes.
Urging the Senate to include legislation for microstamping in its budget proposal, legislators, gun control advocates and law enforcement officers championed the benefits of the gun identification system during a Feb. 14 press conference, citing approval from more than 100 mayors and 80 police departments across New York.
Microstamping involves creating a series of markings on the firing pin during the manufacturing process. The markings include numbers and letters signifying the make, model and serial number of the weapon. When fired, the alpha-numeric code is transferred from the firing pin onto the shell casing. Law enforcement officials can then trace the stamp to determine critical facts about the gun. The information could potentially help lead to arrests for crimes where the gun is never found.
The bills (S.675/A.1157) supporting microstamping on all semi-automatic handguns are sponsored by Sen. Jose Peralta, D-Jackson Heights, and Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel, D-Great Neck.
Peralta says microstamping is a 21st century law enforcement tool.
“We need to arm law enforcement with the resources needed to disarm our streets,” Peralta said, adding that shell casings are often the best evidence at a crime scene, but police lack the tools needed to connect the casings back to the gun used.
“Those who question the need for microstamping to be a law in New York and doubt its value either haven’t heard the anguished voices of the victims’ families and the pleas for help from law enforcement, or they simply choose to ignore it.”
Such pleas include those made by Dionne Gordon, whose brother Maurice was shot and killed in Jamaica, Queens in 2010.
“My brother’s unsolved murder is a gut wrenching experience that our family must endure daily,” Gordon said.
Police recovered 25 shell casings, but have not been able to connect the evidence to a suspect. On the morning of Gordon’s brother’s wake, her father died of a heart attack.
“One murder has caused two deaths,” Gordon said.
Gordon believes microstamping would have located her brother’s killer.
“We have to take a stand,” Gordon said, “and we have to let the criminals know this will not be tolerated.”
According to Schimel, “microstamping is all about public safety and catching criminals.” She said New York has the means to implement microstamping, but not the needed political urgency.
“New York doesn’t have the political will to put the safety of our citizens above gun lobby obstructionism,” Schimel said.
Tom King, president of the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association likens microstamping to the failed CoBis system.
“Twelve years ago, Governor Pataki passed CoBis,” said King. “We told him, the scientific community told him, the manufacturing community told him CoBis couldn’t work. Twelve years and $40 million later, Cuomo decided we were right. He could have saved the state [millions] by not instituting a law based on bad science. This is exactly the same thing that is going on with microstamping.”
King says various tests by the University of California at Davis and the Suffolk County crime lab found microstamping would not work. The only ones, King said, who believe microstamping would work are those who created the technology.
According to King, the microstamping technology is easy to undermine, without affecting the efficacy of the gun. King also says that after 200 to 300 firings, the microstamp can become illegible. He also says it can easily be filed down, even by someone inexperienced with guns, in as little as 15 minutes with an emery board.
Instead of microstamping, King supports the National Integrated Ballistics Information Network. NIBIN is a project of the At The Frontlines Against Violent Crimes Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Violent Crimes. The system matches markings on shell casings found at violent crimes to casings found at other crime scenes.
“NIBIN takes guns from crimes and uses those casings to build a database so they can link crimes and convict people that way,” said King. “What is going on with microstamping is [they’re] taking guns belonging to legal and law-abiding citizens, putting those in a database, and waiting for those to show up.”
This, according to King, is what CoBis did.
“Legal lawful gun owners do not commit crimes with their guns,” said King, who says microstamping is a database of gun owners who will never be involved in crimes. “We are just foisting upon the people of New York state another do-gooder scheme that will not make the people of New York state any safer and will make politicians feel better as if they are accomplishing something and make those that don’t understand the system feel safer.”
According to a report prepared by the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and the Educational Fund to Stop Violence, the developers of microstamping have testified that the process would cost manufacturers between 50 cents and $1, quoting a letter from Laser Light Technologies, Inc. saying, in a “worst case scenario,” the cost per handgun would be $3.
King says that while the firing pin might be inexpensive, overall microstamping has the potential to be more expensive than CoBis ever was, citing the costs of additional tools needed by manufacturers.
“Production lines, in fact, would not manufacture guns in New York state anymore,” said King. This, he says, is what lawmakers want, stating they want guns out of New York altogether.
Jackie Hilly, executive director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, says the Senate should side with victims and law enforcement.
“The sad truth is hundreds of heinous gun crimes remain unsolved every year in New York and we can do more to help solve them by giving law enforcement the tools they need,” Hilly said. “While parents bury their innocent children and grieve for a lifetime, a murderer remains free.”
Hilly says including microstamping in the budget will assist law enforcement in taking guns from criminals.
“We must not allow criminals to run free when microstamping, a simple tool, can help solve gun crimes and give grieving families the justice they deserve,” Hilly said.