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Posted on October 21, 2002
In 2000 Maryland became the first state to require that new handguns must be "ballistically fingerprinted" before they could be sold in the state. Since then anti-gun activists have pushed such legislation in other states and at the federal level. They would have you believe they have discovered an effective new crime-fighting tool, but the truth is that way back in the 1960s their scheme was recognized and rejected for what it is--gun registration by another name. It deserves to be rejected once again.
Under the Maryland law, every newly-manufactured handgun is required to be fired and the distinctive markings left on the bullet and/or cartridge case recorded and entered into a database before the gun may be sold. The theory is that markings on a fired bullet or an empty cartridge case found at a crime scene could be compared to markings in the database, thus identifying the firearm used by the criminal--but not the criminal, who most likely stole the firearm in question, leaving no paper trail to follow.1
To date Maryland`s law has proven to be an utter failure--it unfairly penalizes law-abiding gun owners and taxpayers, with no law enforcement value. With an average cost of $5,000 per shell casing, not a single crime has been solved. However, the number of laboratory personnel and administrators to run the program has risen, while the MSP has lost 12 troopers who would normally perform the critical job of ensuring public safety. By paying for IBIS out of community policing funds, the law is draining money from a program that monitors criminals and diverting it to a program that monitors law-abiding citizens.
Purchase price of IBIS, the software system used to manage collected shell casings.................................$1,100,000
Deallocated funds from community policing projects used to pay for IBIS....................................$1,000,000
Average annual cost of extended warranty on IBIS....................................$150,000
Annual operating cost according to legislative analysis of Maryland State Police (MSP) budget..................$750,000
Officer personnel lines MSP will give up to attrition this year...................................12 troopers
Number of new handguns lawfully transferred under the new law (10/1/2000-3/13/2001)............................400
Number of new handguns that would typically have been sold between 10/1/2000 and 3/13/2001................17,500
Number of crimes solved using shell casings available under the mandate..................ZERO
Faced with these the cold facts, the law`s anti-gun proponents have declared victory. Why? Because only 2.2% of the hand guns normally sold in Maryland during this period have been sold. As a key sponsor of the law even told the Washington Post, "We have inadvertently created an unintended consequence of a de facto ban on some weapons from some manufacturers."
Besides the utter failure of "ballistic fingerprinting" in Maryland, there are other important reasons to vigorously oppose such legislation at the state and federal levels. Among other things, "Ballistic Fingerprinting" schemes would:
1. A study by BATF found that more than 70% of armed career criminals get their guns from "off-the-street sales" and "criminal acts" such as burglaries. ("Protecting America," 3/92). A study for the Department of Justice found that up to 71% of criminals` guns have been stolen. (Armed and Considered Dangerous, 1986)
2. In Haynes v. U.S. (390 U.S. 85, 1968), a convicted felon successfully appealed his conviction for unlawful possession of an unregistered short-barreled shotgun, citing the Fifth Amendment`s protection against self-incrimination. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled: "We hold that a proper claim of constitutional privilege against self-incrimination provides a full defense to prosecutions either for failure to register a firearm under sec.5841 or for possession of an unregistered firearm under sec.5851."
3. Crime in the United States 1998. The FBI estimates firearms were used in 382,761 violent crimes that year. Even if a different gun was used in each crime, the total would amount to less than two-tenths of 1% of the nation`s estimated 230-240 million guns. (Targeting Guns: Firearms and Their Control, Aldine de Gruyter, New York, 1997, pp. 96-97)
4. Bureau of Justice Statistics, "Handgun Crime Victims," July 1990.
Ballistic "Fingerprinting" (Registration)
Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.READ MORE
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