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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Ammunition Accountability Act

Q:Are states going to require serial numbers on bullets and require disposal of existing ammunition?

A:Such a proposal is being pushed by a company that holds a patent on bullet-coding technology. But none of the 31 bills introduced last year ever made it out of committee.


I received this in an e-mail and was curious if it is true.

Ammunition Accountability Act

Remember how Obama said that he wasn’t going to take your guns? Well, it seems that his minions and allies in the anti-gun world have no problem with taking your ammo!

The bill that is being pushed in 18 states (including Illinois and Indiana ) requires all ammunition to be encoded by the manufacture, a data base of all ammunition sales.

So they will know how much you buy and what calibers.

Nobody can sell any ammunition after June 30, 2009 unless the ammunition is coded.

Any privately held un-coded ammunition must be destroyed by July 1, 2011 . (Including hand-loaded ammo.) They will also charge a .05 cent tax on every round so every box of ammo you buy will go up at least $2.50 or more! If they can deprive you of ammo they do not need to take your gun!

Please give this the widest distribution possible and contact your Reps!

It’s the ammo, not the guns . . .

I’ve said for a long time that they wouldn’t go for your guns, they’d go for your ammo . . . guns have a Constitutional protection. Ammo does not. A list of states where this legislation is pending is in the final paragraph. Not in CO yet, they’ll go where the pansies are first.

Heads up to all of you who swore to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign AND domestic.

Let your state Legislatures know that we do not want this bill passed, and petition them to vote no on this bill . We should keep after them until the bill is closed by bombarding them with e-mails, phone calls, and letters.

Get to all your politicians to get to work and NOT LET THIS HAPPEN!!!

The 2008 Legislative session has begun, and the Ammunition Accountability Act is being introduced across the country. Below is a list of the

PANSY states where legislation has already been introduced:

Alabama , Arizona , California , Connecticut , Hawaii , Illinois , Indiana , Kentucky , Maryland , Mississippi , Missouri , New Jersey , New York , Pennsylvania , Rhode Island , South Carolina , Tennessee , and Washington .

Status of pending bills in these States is at: http://ammunitionaccountability.org/Legislation.htm


Despite the urgent tone of this widely forwarded message, which we have been asked about dozens of times, the "Ammunition Accountability Act" so far has shown few signs of life. The National Research Council last year, in a report requested by the Department of Justice, called the technology "promising" but stopped short of recommending any requirement, and instead called for more research and competition.

The idea is being pushed mainly by a single company that holds a patent on bullet-coding technology, so far without much success. Last year lawmakers in 18 states proposed legislation that would require handgun ammunition to be coded, but not one of those bills came to a vote or even made it out of committee. In 2005 the California state Senate approved a so-called "Ammunition Accountability" measure by a vote of 21 to 18, but the proposal then died in the Assembly without coming to a vote there.

Bullet with serial numberUnder the proposed legislation, manufacturers would be required to imprint the bullet and casing with a serial number, which would be recorded in a database maintained by a state agency. Firearms vendors would submit records of their ammunition sales, allowing the agency to identify the purchaser of any particular bullet.

The idea is backed by an organization called "Ammunition Accountability," which says that if the requirement is enacted, "law enforcement personnel will be able to easily trace the ammunition involved in a crime and have an avenue to pursue and solve even the most difficult cases." Ammunition Accountability was founded by the owners of a Seattle company called Ammunition Coding System, which holds a patent on the necessary technology. When asked about this by the Seattle Weekly, ACS co-founder Russ Ford said that he saw no conflict in pushing legislation that would require manufacturers to use his product: "Some protection is afforded inventors everywhere that have come up with ideas." More recently, however, co-founder Steve Mace told FactCheck that ACS was trying to disengage from Ammunition Accountability.

Gun rights organizations oppose ammunition coding, saying that the costs would be prohibitive, and would amount to a de facto gun ban. The e-mail above cites a ".05 cent tax" on each bullet (we assume the author actually means a 5 cent tax), leading to a claimed "$2.50 or more" increase on every box of ammunition. A fact sheet from the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action also discusses "outrageously expensive ammunition costs," as well as the difficulty and potential privacy infractions of record-keeping.

The actual cost isn’t certain. The "sample legislation" being pushed by ACS does include a state tax to offset the cost of database maintenance, but it’s only half a  cent per bullet, which would be 25 cents per box of 50 – one-tenth of what the chain e-mail claims. There would also be some increase in manufacturer costs, which would presumably be passed on to consumers. But estimates vary widely.

In a 2006 presentation to the National Research Council of the National Academies, Patrick Grace of TRUMPF Inc., a laser manufacturer that did a study at the request of ACS, said that the actual cost per bullet would be .14 cents per bullet, including new equipment and materials costs. But the NRA and the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers Institute have put the cost much higher. When responding to the 2005 bullet-coding bill in California, SAAMI calculated that complying with a bullet-coding law would cost "several dollars per cartridge."

As for privacy issues, the sample legislation calls for a record of name, driver’s license or ID number, and birth date. This is less information than vendors are currently required to keep for firearm transactions, but most states don’t have a centralized database of that information. Some proposed legislation addressed privacy concerns, stating that the database information would only be available to law enforcement when necessary. The NRA points out that a 1986 amendment to federal gun regulations removed record-keeping requirements for non-armor-piercing bullets.

The e-mail claims that under the proposed legislation, "un-coded ammunition must be destroyed by July 1, 2011." That was roughly true of the sample legislation proposed by Ammunition Accountability, which gave ammunition owners and retailers two years from the date the proposed law would have gone into effect (January 1, 2009) to use or get rid of their unstamped bullets. But the versions that were actually introduced differed – some had earlier dates, some later, and any bills reintroduced this year could have later dates still. The Washington bill didn’t mandate disposal at all, and one Illinois bill specified that uncoded ammunition could be passed on to an heir or sold out of state. Only Missouri and Kentucky specified penalties for continuing to possess uncoded ammunition.

The message also claims that the proposal is being pushed by "minions" of President-elect Barack Obama. But Obama himself has not publicly expressed any position on this idea, for or against.

However, the National Research Council found ammunition coding to be a promising technology. Its report, Ballistic Imaging, recommended stamped bullets over alternatives like an expanded ballistics imaging database, but it also warned that more research was needed:

Ballistic Imaging, 2008: In microstamping – as in the early days of computer-based ballistics imaging – there has arguably been a push to legislate on the basis of the claims and competences of one or two vendors. We do not challenge the work done by the vendors who have suggested microstamping to date; they have made solid and worthwhile contributions. Microstamping may indeed be a viable future for firearms identification, and we strongly encourage continuing research in this area. However, we do conclude that state and local law enforcement would be better served by new technologies and systems developed through richer and more open competitions, by multiple vendors and research teams and with fuller appreciation for the integration of new systems with existing manufacturing practices.

-Jess Henig


Ammunition Accountability. " Ammunition Accountability Act Sample Legislation." Accessed 15 Jan. 2008.

Patrick Grace. "Bullet Coding Laser Marking Issues." 2006. 

National Rifle Association. "Encoded Ammunition’/Bullet Serialization." 25 Jan. 2008.

National Rifle Association. "Lockyer, Dunn and Perata Misrepresent Their Bullet Registration Scheme." 6 May 2005.

National Research Council. Ballistic Imaging. 2008.

Business Wire. "Gain Insight Into the Small Arms Ammunition Manufacturing Industry in the U.S." 11 Apr. 2007.

Onstot, Laura. "Three Seattle Guys Want to Bar-Code Bullets." Seattle Weekly. 4 Mar. 2008.