EDITORIAL: Microstamping on gun rights

In 1983, Clint Eastwood reprised his “Dirty Harry” role in the movie “Sudden Impact,” set in the San Francisco area. Like most of Mr. Eastwood’s films, it included a few signature lines, including one that notified some bad guys of his backup: “Smith and Wesson … and me.”

It appears Californians will have less backup from Smith &Wesson, thanks to a misguided law that went into effect last year. As reported by the Los Angeles Times’ Kate Mather on Jan. 23, Smith &Wesson will not comply with California’s microstamping statute, which will cause more of its products to fall off the state’s permissible firearms list and be ineligible for sale. Sturm, Ruger &Co. also will allow its products to fall off the list.

Assembly Bill 1471, which passed in 2007 but didn’t take effect for six years so technology could catch up, requires new or redesigned semiautomatic weapons to have microstamping technology. Microstamping imprints the make, model and serial number of the gun onto shell casings when a round is fired, purportedly to help police solve crimes. But Smith &Wesson says “a number of studies have indicated that microstamping is unreliable, serves no safety purpose, is cost prohibitive and, most importantly, is not proven to aid in preventing or solving crimes.”

While that last point might be the best argument against such laws, the cost of the technology is the real end run around the Second Amendment. It’s by design. Lawmakers across the country are infringing on Americans’ right to bear arms by making the purchase and legal possession of firearms as expensive and as difficult as possible. But, time and again, their efforts fail to pass constitutional muster.

In recent years, handgun bans in Washington, D.C., and Chicago were struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court. The Chicago ruling, as noted by Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman last month, cost the city not only what it spent to defend the ordinance, but also the legal fees run up challenging it — $1.4 million in taxpayer money paid to the National Rifle Association. Yet then-Mayor Richard M. Daley doubled down by pushing through an ordinance that required gun owners to get at least five hours of training, including one hour at a shooting range, while outlawing “shooting galleries, firearm ranges or any other place where firearms are discharged.” Mr. Chapman noted the duplicity: “The city claimed proper training is vital while hindering the residents from getting it.”

That led to another federal lawsuit, which Chicago lost. But the ordinance went one more step, banning gun stores within city limits. Last month, a federal judge struck down that provision, too. A constitutional challenge to California’s microstamping edict is under way.

The legal losses are only the beginning. Anti-gun laws will eliminate jobs in the states that pass them. Gun maker Beretta, headquartered in Maryland, wanted to expand a manufacturing plant there. Then the state enacted stricter gun laws. Last week, Beretta announced a $45 million investment in a firearms plant in Tennessee that will initially employ 300 workers, according to The Tennesseean. New state laws in Colorado prompted Magpul, one of the country’s largest ammunition magazine producers, to bolt for Wyoming.

All these outcomes illustrate the futility of undermining the Bill of Rights. Gun foes have but one sure-fire way to achieve their goals: Amend the Constitution. Good luck with that. Or as Mr. Eastwood might say, “Go ahead. Make my day.”