Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Police Chief William Bratton are supporting a local bill requiring gun manufacturers to build handguns that would stamp bullet casings with serial numbers, the Los Angeles Times reports. The innovation is intended to speed investigations by making it easier to link bullets to the weapons that fired them. The measure would affect only the manufacture of new semiautomatic handguns, but Bratton and others said it would aid officers in investigating gun violence.
Proponents say the etching technology would imprint each gun’s serial number on bullet casings when the firing pin of the weapon struck the cartridge. They argue that such microscopic imprinting could not be easily tampered with because other identifying marks would reveal what gun fired the bullet. By cross-checking bullet casings with existing state databases on gun purchases, authorities say they could quickly determine out what gun had fired the bullets recovered from a crime scene. Opponents complain that the bill would do little to deter criminals, and Bratton acknowledged that only a small percentage of Los Angeles gun crime is caused by criminals using properly registered weapons. In addition to skepticism about the bill’s impact, some critics charge that the etching on the firing pins of guns would quickly degrade, rendering the technology ineffective.