Solving gun crimes would be a bit easier if shell casings carried a mark that allowed police to trace them back to the gun that fired them. Albany should add that tool to law enforcement's arsenal.

It's called microstamping. Lasers are used to make tiny engravings on internal mechanisms, like firing pins, so that when a gun is fired, information identifying the make, model and serial number will be stamped onto the cartridge. Police could use that information to track down a gun's last legal owner, the store where it was sold and, just maybe, find a lead to the person who committed the crime.

The Assembly has already passed a bill requiring that semiautomatic pistols manufactured or delivered to any licensed dealer in the state be capable of microstamping ammunition. The Senate should, too. But a vote in that chamber yesterday was aborted when it appeared the bill wouldn't get the votes for passage. It's caught in a tug of war between the gun lobby and proponents, including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, prosecutors and police. Senate supporters should try again.

Microstamping is no crime-busting panacea. Fastidious criminals could take the time after a shooting to collect all the shell casings. Savvy ones could switch firing pins or obliterate the markings inside their guns. But it's a pretty good bet that many wouldn't. Albany should see to it that the carelessness of those lawbreakers becomes a plus for police. hN

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