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Joint Statement On Ballistic "Fingerprinting"

Thursday, October 17, 2002

Wayne LaPierre Executive Vice-President National Rifle Association & Chris W. Cox Executive Director, National Rifle Association - Institute for Legislative Action
In times of exasperation over inexplicable tragedy, it`s reasonable to search for preventative solutions. Yet despite our collective horror, proposals must be evaluated with objectivity, weighing possible benefit against certain costs that must be measured in terms of both financial reality and personal freedom. The National Rifle Association has always welcomed any technology that obstructs criminal behavior while respecting the rights of law-abiding citizens. For that reason, NRA is on record supporting H.R. 3491, The Ballistic Imaging Evaluation and Study Act of 2001, and its Senate counterpart S. 2581, since their introduction more than 6 months ago. But we cannot support a ballistic "fingerprinting" proposition (H.R. 408 & S. 3096), that even a passing glance reveals is flawed, unworkable and infringes on the rights of tens of millions of law-abiding Americans. Ballistic "fingerprinting" is a misleading phrase, because human fingerprints or DNA or other biometric data can`t be altered. But ballistic abrasion patterns can change for a variety of reasons. Still, for ballistic "fingerprinting" to work as proposed, all of the following assumptions must materialize:
  • That the firearm barrel and firing pin have not been modified, replaced, deformed from normal use, or intentionally falsified with new ballistic markings.
  • That all 200 million firearms lawfully possessed by Americans are brought into labs and fired to gather individual ballistic "fingerprinting."
  • That all violent criminals, and people who might become one, also bring in their firearms for "fingerprinting."
  • That all ballistic "fingerprinting" files are stored in a national database.
  • That an expended bullet or shell casing be recovered from a crime scene.
  • That the bullet or shell casing conclusively match the ballistic "fingerprinting" of a firearm owned by a person stored in the database.
  • That the firearm has not been sold, transferred, stolen or gifted to another person.
  • That the person, now a criminal suspect, still possess that firearm at a current address.
Besides the impossibility of this sequence of events, there`s serious debate within the law enforcement community whether such ballistic "fingerprinting" is reliable. Police criminalists and forensic scientists have studied such a system and called it "impractical." (California Department of Justice, Bureau of Forensic Services). So it defies reason why a criminal or terrorist intent on violence would not avail himself of a firearm never subjected to "fingerprinting," altered into anonymity, or imported from another country. But for lawful gun owners, this scheme is national gun registration, and certain to produce confusion, misidentification and wrongful suspicion. That`s why ballistic "fingerprinting" of handguns in Maryland and New York, the only states that require it, hasn`t solved a single gun crime. Maryland and New York taxpayers might rightfully ask whether the millions of dollars required to create and maintain such a system could be better spent on vital law enforcement needs. Before squandering billions of dollars to deploy such a system nationwide, American taxpayers - despite national alarm in the wake of tragedy - should ask that question, too. The NRA welcomes participation in an objective and unemotional evaluation of the entire concept of ballistic imaging, or any other technologies, in search of any reasonable contribution to the process of law enforcement.
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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.