Ballistic Fingerprinting

Call it What it Is -- Attempted Cartridge Registration

Please Note: Revolvers don't leave shell casings behind. If this silly proposal actually did work the bad guys would just carry them. They're generally cheaper, safer and more reliable than semi-autos anyway.
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Another "Feel Good" Ineffective Waste of Time and Money

Jan, 2005

The Maryland State Police Forensic Sciences Division has called for scrapping the state's ballistic imaging program, the Maryland Integrated Ballistics Identification System (MD-IBIS), stating it has found the system to be an ineffective tool for law enforcement.

The program has cost the taxpayers of Maryland more than $2.5 million, but has produced no results. "There have been no crime investigations that have been enhanced or expedited through the use of MD-IBIS," the report says. "The program simply has not met the expectations and does not aid in the Mission statement of the Department of State Police."

"This report proves what we have been saying all along," commented NRA-ILA Executive Director, Chris W. Cox. "Ballistic fingerprinting is not a useful law-enforcement tool and is simply another attempt by those who would take away our Second Amendment rights to interfere with the ownership of firearms by law-abiding people."

The new report provides detailed information on the failure of the system, including the system's failure on four blind proficiency tests to match test-fired cartridges from handguns sold in the state.

In the end, the Maryland State Police report provides three primary recommendations: 1) discontinue the program and moth-ball the equipment; 2) enact legislation repealing the current law to require collection of casings; and 3) transfer personnel and funds to the state DNA database program.

The report concludes that MD-IBIS "has not proven to be a time saving tool for the Firearms Examiner or an investigative enhancement to the criminal investigator. It has simply failed in the Mission and Vision concepts originally established for the Program."

It's not like we didn't tell them so ....

January 22, 2005
Byline: David Snyder
Maryland lawmakers yesterday submitted a measure to repeal a state law requiring state police to collect ballistics information on every handgun sold in the state.

The bill -- sponsored by Dels. Joan Cadden (D-Anne Arundel), Norman H. Conway (D-Wicomico) and Michael D. Smigiel Sr. (R-Cecil) -- would nullify a landmark measure passed in 2000 that requires handgun manufacturers to test-fire all handguns sold in Maryland and send the spent shell casings to the state police. The police file the shell's ballistics markings in a database, which officers can use to match shell casings found at crime scenes.

Maryland and New York are the only states with ballistics "fingerprinting" laws, which gun-control advocates and some law enforcement officials have hailed as a potentially effective crime-fighting tool. A recent Maryland State Police report, however, said the program is expensive and ineffective and recommended that the law be repealed. Gun-control advocates have disagreed, saying the system needs more time to work.

"The state police have indicated it's not working," said Smigiel, who filed a similar bill last year that died in committee. "We're wasting a couple million dollars which we could be putting to better use."

And Now, on to the Regular Article from 2003

Like most so-called 'gun-control' laws, the proposed Ballistic Fingerprinting requirement sounds good, but will merely become another of the 20,000 plus ineffective attempts to make criminals obey the law should it be passed.

In a nutshell...

All firearms leave a unique pattern of dents and scratches in bullets and shell casings fired in them. This is a fact I will not dispute.

The proposal is to require all firearm manufacturers to provide a spent cartridge to the state for every firearm sold at legal retail, along with the name, address and Social Security number of the person purchasing that firearm.

The simple-minded assumption is that a shell casing found at the scene of a crime will lead to the person who fired the gun.

Like most ineffective laws, this sounds logical at first blush.

Let's look at this in some detail, however, and apply some really basic logic to it.

FACT: ALL legal firearm purchases currently require a criminal background check of the person buying the firearm.

FACT: Very few firearms related crimes are committed by the original purchaser of the firearm. Most are committed with stolen or otherwise illegally aquired firearms, for which the new law would have no effect.

FACT: Most crimes committed by legal firearms owners are easily traced back to the shooter by other means. These are in the scant minority, however, since the VAST MAJORITY of firearm involved crimes are committed with illegal guns. No amount of law can change that.

FACT: In October, 2001, a report by California state ballistics experts concluded that ballistic fingerprinting isn't currently feasible. (According to FOX News, this report was ' hushed up' by the California attorney general's office.) According to the referenced report, more than 2,000 rounds from 790 pistols were test fired and compared by computer. The match failed 38 percent of the time if the cartridges were the same headstamp. If they were from different manufacturers the failure rate went up to over 60%.

FACT: Maryland already requires ballistic fingerprinting. So far it hasn't helped convict a single criminal though 17,000 guns sold since January 2000 have been 'fingerprinted.

FACT: Maryland, with some of the toughest gun-control laws in the nation has one of the highest robbery and homicide rates. Across the river, Virginia (a state/commonwealth that trusts her law-abiding residents as citizens rather than subjects) has one of the lowest. DC, with the strongest anti-gun laws in the nation, is the 2003 Murder Capital Again!.

Anyone wishing to dispute these facts is welcome to cite their sources.

To completely defeat the proposed law, all a criminal needs do is any of the following;

  • Use a stolen, used, pawned, old or black-market firearm, (Most crimes are committed by these anyway) rendering millions of dollars in laws, databases and regulations completely impotent.
  • Use a patched ball in a muzzle loader. A 47" Hawken .50 Caliber with a Minieball is a great 'sniper' rifle even at 300-400 yards! This would render millions of dollars in laws, databases and regulations completely impotent.
  • Don't leave your shell casings behind. A 15.00 'catch-bag' can solve that problem, or you can make one with a wire coat hanger and a baggie in about 10 minutes for about ten cents. This would render millions of dollars in laws, databases and regulations completely impotent.
  • Buy a .59 cent steel brush and spend 10 minutes scratching up the chamber of the gun, rendering millions of dollars in laws, databases and regulations completely impotent.
  • Two minutes with a Dremel can render any firearm 'fingerprint free.'
  • Spend 1 minute with a nail file and scratch up the firing pin and distort the firing pin guide. This also makes millions of dollars in laws, databases and regulations completely impotent.
  • Use Reloaded Ammo.
  • Replace the barrel.

If this 'ballistic registration' scam actually did work, another scary possibility is that some bad guy will pick up someone elses spent casings at a range. They could either reload them, or just drop them at a crime scene. Some innocent, law-abiding citizen or even a law enforcement officer could then easily find themselves implicated in a crime.

IN A NUTSHELL: Gun Control Laws Only Affect Law Abiding Citizens because Criminals Don't Obey the Law!

This just goes to prove that examining ballistic fingerprints are not a useful or effective way to catch criminals in a timely manner.

Providing the assailant hasn't hired the best cleaning company NYC has to offer and scrubbed the crime scene clean; Other, proven methods of crime scene investigation such as actual fingerprints,shoe or tire prints, hair or blood DNA evidence and other forms of physical evidence would be much more effective in apprehending criminals and possibly preventing future incidents and crimes.

Now, the Visual Aids:

The "Parts" of a gun. The BATF Only considers the lower part, (grip/receiver) to be a firearm.
The "Barrel" can be easily replaced because it's considered 'just another part. Changing the barrel completely changes the so-called fingerprint. It would be like a safe-cracker getting
a fast, easy 'finger transplant' for two-hundred dollars.

A .59 cent steel brush, a wad of sandpaper or a file can easily, quickly and completely defeat chamber fingerprints.
Firing Pin Fingerprints are Easily Modifed, but Also Change With Age.
"Fingerprint" From a New Firearm Same Firearm Two Years Later
(A Friend at BATF Lab Said There Was
'No Comparison' to the Former.)
Unlike Human fingerprints, firearm fingerprints change unpredictably over time.
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