Explore The NRA Universe Of Websites

APPEARS IN News

"Ballistic Fingerprinting" -- The Maryland Example:Costing Taxpayers Without Benefiting Law Enforcement

Monday, 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.

Maryland`s "Ballistic Fingerprinting" Scorecard

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:

  • Require registration of law-abiding gun owners only. The system would apply only to newly-manufactured firearms, but anti-gun activists would soon demand that the "loopholes" in the system be closed and that all of the more than 200 million privately owned firearms in America be surrendered to authorities for "fingerprinting." This would, of course, require registration, but only of honest citizens. Felons would be constitutionally exempt from any registration requirement.2
  • Be irrelevant to nearly all violent crime. Proponents ignore the fact that three out of four violent crimes, don`t involve firearms. They also ignore the fact that less than 1% of the firearms in America are used in crimes.3
  • Be circumvented easily by criminals. Nothing would prevent a criminal from altering the relevant parts of a firearm before using it in a crime, thereby rendering useless any bullet/cartridge case comparisons.
  • Ignore the fact that, unlike real fingerprints, "ballistic fingerprints" can change. When a firearm wears through use and/or lack of maintenance, the markings on the bullets and/or cases it fires change.
  • Ignore the fact that most often no "fingerprints" are left behind. In 87% of handgun-related violent crimes, the gun is not fired, only brandished.4 Furthermore, many firearm designs, i.e. revolvers, do not eject fired cases, and shotguns, of course do not fire bullets.
  • Provide little bang for a lot of bucks. The tax dollars required to create the bureaucracy necessary to administer such systems would be much more efficiently spent on more traditional law enforcement activities, such as hiring and retaining additional police officers and prosecutors and providing police departments with much-needed equipment.
  • SUMMARY: "Ballistic fingerprinting" is yet another costly diversion from the real problem--the lack of prosecutions of armed, violent offenders. State and federal lawmakers should be focusing tax dollars on real solutions, not unworkable government bureaucracies.

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.

TRENDING NOW
Your Members of Congress Need to Hear from You on the Hearing Protection Act of 2017

News  

Friday, January 13, 2017

Your Members of Congress Need to Hear from You on the Hearing Protection Act of 2017

On Monday, Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID) – joined by co-sponsors Sens. Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Rand Paul (R-KY) – introduced S. 59, the Hearing Protection Act of 2017 (HPA). Similar legislation was introduced in the ...

National Concealed Carry Reciprocity Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them

News  

Friday, January 13, 2017

National Concealed Carry Reciprocity Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them

On January 3rd, Congressman Richard Hudson (R-N.C.8th) introduced H.R. 38, the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017, which simply allows lawful firearm carriers from any state to carry a concealed firearm in any other state. The bill ...

Alert: WA State Proposes Draconian Gun Ban Bills

News  

Friday, January 13, 2017

Alert: WA State Proposes Draconian Gun Ban Bills

Inspired, perhaps, by Oscar Wilde (“Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess”), Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson has announced two new sweeping gun control bills, with Sen. David Frockt (D-Seattle) and Rep. ...

Supreme Court Asked to Review California’s Restrictive Carry Regime

News  

Friday, January 13, 2017

Supreme Court Asked to Review California’s Restrictive Carry Regime

On Thursday, the NRA-supported case Peruta v. California took an important step towards restoring the right to bear arms in California.  The plaintiffs in the case, California gun owners and the California Rifle and Pistol ...

The NRA Bids Farewell to Roy Innis, Civil Rights Champion: June 6, 1934 – Jan. 8, 2017

News  

Friday, January 13, 2017

The NRA Bids Farewell to Roy Innis, Civil Rights Champion: June 6, 1934 – Jan. 8, 2017

America lost a civil rights icon and a true free thinker with the death of Roy Innis on Jan. 8. For the NRA, his departure was personal. Mr. Innis served on the NRA’s Board of ...

Increase in Violent Crime: National Trend Driven by Local Politics?

News  

Friday, January 13, 2017

Increase in Violent Crime: National Trend Driven by Local Politics?

The FBI released its Preliminary Semiannual Uniform Crime Report earlier this week and the bad news is that violent crime increased for the second consecutive year.

Virginia: Senate Committee to Hear Numerous Gun Bills Tomorrow

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Virginia: Senate Committee to Hear Numerous Gun Bills Tomorrow

Tomorrow, January 18, the Senate Courts of Justice is expected to hear and possibly vote on several firearm-related bills.

NRA Applauds the Introduction of the Hearing Protection Act, H.R. 367

News  

Hunting  

Monday, January 9, 2017

NRA Applauds the Introduction of the Hearing Protection Act, H.R. 367

FAIRFAX, Va. – The National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) applauded Congressmen Jeff Duncan (SC) and John Carter (TX-31) on Monday for introducing the Hearing Protection Act, an important bill that gives gun owners and sportsmen ...

Kansas: Bill Introduced Attempting to Repeal Pro-Self-Defense Law

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Kansas: Bill Introduced Attempting to Repeal Pro-Self-Defense Law

In 2013, the Kansas Legislature passed the Public Building Security Act, pro-gun legislation that amended the Personal and Family Protection Act. 

Jeff Sessions’ Devotion to the Constitution Shines Through in Contentious Confirmation Hearing

News  

Friday, January 13, 2017

Jeff Sessions’ Devotion to the Constitution Shines Through in Contentious Confirmation Hearing

On January 10 and 11, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee held the confirmation hearing for President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for United States Attorney General, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.). Throughout his distinguished career in public service, ...

MORE TRENDING +
LESS TRENDING -
NRA ILA

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.