Microstamping Guns in New Jersey

The Potential Use of Firearms Microstamping Technologies may Lead to More Arrests from Criminal Investigations in NJ.

Does NJ Microstamp Guns?
Firearms Microstamping to Assist NJ Criminal Investigations

One way that police departments in some places are beginning to close the gap on investigating gun crimes and making more arrests for weapons-related offenses is by relying on advanced technologies, including things like microstamping. By using microstamping technology, police are able to trace the exact firearms used to commit crimes and eventually, bring criminal charges against the offenders. Learn more about microstamping and guns, including New Jersey’s efforts to enact such policies in this state, and how this could impact those accused of using weapons for unlawful purposes below.

What is Microstamping?

Microstamping is a technology that involves using a specially designed laser to imprint or engrave what is known as a “micro stamp” marking on the firing pin located on the inside of a gun. Then, any time the gun is fired, the bullet casings are also stamped with the same information in the form of microstamped letters or characters. The micro stamp is unique to that particular gun – including the gun’s make, model, and serial number – which allows law enforcement to match a bullet casing to the gun when investigating a crime. This helps enormously when police are trying to find a suspect in a shooting because the registered owner of the gun can be identified, and it can lead to quick apprehension and arrests. It’s not unlike the way that police can identify the driver of a car involved in a hit-and-run accident by using the vehicle license plate number. Just as you don’t need to have the car, you don’t need to have the weapon to trace its identifying information if you have a shell casing.

Purpose of Microstamping

The purpose of microstamping is to give law enforcement another option when it comes to solving crimes where a weapon was used. This is particularly important in New Jersey, where some gun crimes have historically gone unsolved due to the absence of information about the weapons involved in the offense. Microstamping technology provides police with additional data about the guns and gives investigators the ability to trace them to the original purchasers when they are used in criminal activity. This is because microstamping makes it possible for police to thoroughly investigate a crime involving a gun even when the weapon can’t be recovered at a crime scene. Additionally, the presence of microstamping on firearms would potentially deter individuals from committing weapons offenses in the first place because they will know just how easy it is for law enforcement to connect the offender to the crime.

New Jersey Efforts to Make Microstamping a Matter of Law

New Jersey lawmakers have sought to give law enforcement additional tools as they analyze evidence in gun crime cases by taking steps to mandate microstamping. One of the proposed bills being considered by legislators, S-3826/A-5787, would require that all new handguns manufactured and later sold in New Jersey incorporate microstamping technology. Firearm manufacturers would need to start doing this within one year. Additionally, all licensed firearms dealers would be required to report any handgun sales to NJ State Police so that authorities can include the records in a firearm sales database. This database would be accessible by both state and local law enforcement agencies and would include the following information:

  • Date and location of handgun sale.
  • Make and model of the handgun.
  • Handgun purchaser’s name and address.

Joann Downey, one of the lawmakers sponsoring the legislation to promote microstamping technology, said that it is essentially “like assigning DNA to a firearm.” In this way, police can trace a specific handgun back to its owner simply by recovering a cartridge casing at the scene of a crime.

What if NJ Starts Requiring Microstamped Weapons?

If the legislation promoting microstamping technology becomes the law in New Jersey, it would have severe consequences for firearms manufacturers: anyone who violates the law to incorporate microstamping into new handguns sold in NJ would be subject to fourth degree criminal charges, which means exposure to prison time and substantial fines.
Microstamping laws would also matter a great deal to New Jersey residents because they would impact the ability to buy guns and ammunition: anyone who attempted to purchase a firearm that did not have microstamping, or anyone who knowingly removed the microstamped information from a firearm, would face criminal charges for a weapons offense. For instance, one of the proposed laws in the New Jersey State Legislature stipulates the following criminal charges and penalties for offenders:

  • Third Degree Charges: Anyone who knowingly defaces or removes the microstamping mechanism from a semi-automatic handgun can be charged with a third degree felony. A conviction on third degree charges would come with a sentence of 3-5 years in state prison, as well as a fine of up to $15,000. Additionally, the offender would have a criminal record that includes a conviction for a weapons offense.
  • Fourth Degree Charges: Anyone who buys a semi-automatic handgun that has been defaced to remove the microstamping mechanism can be charged with a fourth degree felony. If convicted, the penalties would include a sentence of up to 18 months in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Moreover, the offender would be left with a criminal record that follows them for the rest of their life.

The harsh penalties that are likely to accompany criminal charges for violating the NJ microstamping law would make it extremely important for you to speak with a criminal defense attorney who has experience representing individuals charged with weapons offenses. As it is, being charged with a weapons offense exposes you to significant consequences, often long-standing with such ramifications like a felony conviction on your record. Whether it be charges for unlawful possession of a weapon, a prohibited weapon or device like large-capacity magazines or ammunition, or a crime allegedly committed with a weapon like armed robbery, you are smart to have an experienced lawyer on your side and helping you to contest the charges from the moment you are placed under arrest.

Are there Defenses to Removing Microstamped Information from a Gun?

Depending on the facts of your case, it might be possible for your attorney to negotiate a favorable plea deal that helps you avoid the worst consequences, or even get the charges dismissed altogether. For example, the proposed microstamping law currently includes a few exceptions that allow individuals to replace the firing pin of their handgun under certain circumstances, such as when the pin has been damaged. The law also allows you to replace the firing pin if you are doing so for a “legitimate sporting purpose.” This means that you may be able to avoid conviction even if, technically, you removed the microstamped information from the handgun. Of course, whether or not this law ultimately comes to fruition remains to be seen.

The nuances and strategies that can be used to defend gun cases are vast and varied, all the more reason to have your case examined by the most well-versed attorneys on weapons laws in NJ. With things changing all the time, you also need to be sure that your lawyer is abreast of all of the latest issues and developments in New Jersey firearms laws. Trust the talented weapons attorneys at The Tormey Law Firm to have the knowledge and skills you need to handle your case. For additional assistance and information, contact (201) 614-2474 24/7 to talk to a lawyer at no cost.