LOS ANGELES (AP) – California’s attorney general said Thursday he’s pushing for a law requiring handgun ammunition sold in the state to carry a microscopic code that would enable law enforcement to trace bullets back to the buyer.

Attorney General Bill Lockyer told The Associated Press after speaking at a gun violence conference in Los Angeles that he has spoken with state lawmakers about taking up a bill next year to create the system.

The statewide tracking system would catalog serial numbers on bullet casings and slugs in a database along with information about buyers, who would show identification when making a purchase.

“It’s a good tool to fight gangs and other criminal activity,” Lockyer said.

California would be the first state in the country to have such a system, said Randy Rossi, director of the Justice Department’s firearms division.

Rossi said the system has vast potential based on recent field tests in which 200 engraved handgun bullets were fired at walls, car doors and gelatin designed to replicate human targets. Of the 181 bullets recovered, 180 had codes intact and readable.

Estimated costs to manufacturers would run a penny or less for each bullet, according to Rossi and Paul Curry, a representative of Ravensforge, a Seattle, Wash.-based company that has developed bullet etching technology.

The proposed system immediately drew skepticism from representatives of gun and ammunition manufacturers as well as gun owners.

“It’s another proposal designed to make it more difficult for those who make ammunition and people who enjoy firearms,” said Gary Mehalik, spokesman for the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

Officials were still determining how the system might affect ammunition dealers. Many of the 1,600 gun retail outlets already have the electronic equipment needed to record information about gun buyers.

However, thousands of stores that sell ammunition but not handguns might need new identification card scanning equipment, Rossi said.

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