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Grassroots Alert: Vol. 9, No. 42 10/18/2002



With Congress currently poised to adjourn for the year, there are so many critical issues left unaddressed that lawmakers will need to reconvene for a special "lame duck" session following the November 5 elections. During this session, there are several firearm-related proposals that may be considered. Of course, NRA has been promoting the passage of two particular measures for quite some time—a prohibition on reckless lawsuits designed to bankrupt law-abiding gun manufacturers, and the establishment of an effective armed pilots program—and we will work to ensure these measures are addressed.

Recently, however, the issue of "ballistic fingerprinting" has been receiving a great deal of attention. This attention will possibly lead to action on legislative proposals that would either encourage studying the feasibility of a "ballistic fingerprinting" scheme, or would simply mandate such a scheme be implemented, regardless of whether it has any potential of being an effective crime-solving tool.

NRA, of course, has always welcomed any technology that obstructs criminals and is not used to infringe upon the rights of law-abiding citizens. For that reason, NRA has been on record as supporting H.R. 3491, The Ballistic Imaging Evaluation and Study Act of 2001, and its Senate counterpart S. 2581, since their introduction more than six months ago. But we cannot support a "ballistic fingerprinting" proposition (H.R. 408 & S. 3096) that its sponsor says would set up a "national gun database."

"Ballistic fingerprinting" is a misleading phrase, because human fingerprints, DNA, or other biometric data can’t be altered. But markings on fired cartridge cases and bullets do change for a variety of reasons. Furthermore, 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). In fact, an October 10 article on Newsday.com by William J. Vizzard—a retired agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms (BATF) who now serves as the chair of the Division of Criminal Justice at California State University-Sacramento—spells out many of the flaws with "ballistic fingerprinting." Vizzard points out problems such as the substantial cost of such a system, limits as to how many firearms would actually be included in the database, and legal questions regarding the evidential chain of custody for samples. And considering most criminals obtain their firearms through illegal channels, such as by theft, tracing firearms back to the last legal owners would likely result in a dead end for any investigation.

An article by researcher Steven Milloy, posted today to FOXNews.com, also points out the problems with ballistic "fingerprinting." Milloy addresses the study conducted by the California Department of Justice, Bureau of Forensic Services, pointing out the numerous flaws with "ballistic fingerprinting" exposed by the study. But Milloy notes, "Shockingly, the California experts were silenced by California’s pro-gun control Attorney General Bill Lockyer (D). One panel member said he was gagged by the AG’s office, not only about the study, but about the entire topic."

The many problems with "ballistic fingerprinting" that have been exposed by the California study, coupled with the transitory nature of these so-called "fingerprints," led NRA EVP Wayne LaPierre and NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris Cox to comment in a joint release on the subject, "[I]t 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."

The release went on to point out that, "[F]or lawful gun owners, this ["ballistic fingerprinting"] 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," LaPierre and Cox continued, "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."

For more information on "ballistic fingerprinting," please see the complete joint release from Wayne LaPierre and Chris Cox. You can also review our "Ballistic Fingerprinting" -- The Maryland Example Fact Sheet.

In addition to the issue of "ballistic fingerprinting," reckless lawsuit preemption legislation—which would block politically-motivated lawsuits that attempt to hold law-abiding gun makers liable for the criminal misuse of their products—still needs to move through both chambers of Congress. The House version, H.R. 2037, has 231 co-sponsors and has been passed by two committees. Its next stop should be the House floor for full consideration. The Senate version, S. 2268, now has 44 co-sponsors. The number of co-sponsors for each bill shows solid support, but time is rapidly running out for lawmakers to pass these critical reforms. Please call both your U.S. Senators and your U.S. Representative and urge them to promote the passage of reckless lawsuit preemption legislation.


Also, the U.S. Senate still needs to act on H.R. 5005—the legislation that would create a Homeland Security Department and which contains the Smith amendment. The Smith amendment seeks to establish an armed pilots program that would allow qualified commercial pilots to be able to have access to firearms as a last line of defense against terrorist hijackers. Please continue to contact your U.S. Senators and urge them to keep the Smith amendment intact, and to do everything possible to ensure any armed pilots program passed includes every pilot interested in participating in the program.


To contact your U.S. Representative, call (202) 225-3121, and to reach your U.S. Senators, call (202) 224-3121. Just ask to speak with your particular lawmaker. You can also use our "Write Your Representatives" tool.




In preparation for the November 5 elections, NRA-ILA has a few scheduled FREE Grassroots-Election Workshops remaining. Fifty-nine Workshops in 32 states have been conducted to date. These Workshops provide NRA members with training on what they can do in their local areas to ensure pro-gun candidates win their elections this year. The meetings also provide a venue for lawmakers, candidates seeking office, and their staffs to reach out to NRA members and explain their positions on our Right to Keep and Bear Arms.

Our last two Workshops are slated for:

Monticello, Minn. — 10/19

Duluth, Minn. — 10/21

NRA members who are interested in attending can find details by clicking here. There is no need to register in advance, as we can register you on the spot.


Even if you were not able to attend a Workshop, or none were scheduled near you, there is still plenty you can do to help ensure victory for the pro-gun community during this election cycle. To assist you with this, NRA-ILA has designated an individual in almost every congressional district (known as an NRA-ILA Election Volunteer Coordinator [EVC]) who stands ready to plug you into ongoing campaign activities. The EVC in your district is a fellow NRA member who is working to provide pro-gun campaigns in your state and area with volunteers to help with phone banks, literature drops, voter registration drives, precinct walks, get out the vote and Election Day activities, and other campaign activities. To locate your EVC so you can start working on pro-freedom campaigns TODAY, please click here. If your district currently has a vacancy for an EVC, and you would like to serve in this capacity, please call the NRA-ILA Grassroots Division and ask to speak with the Grassroots Coordinator for your state.

Finally, you may also refer to your October NRA magazine (which you should have received), as your district’s EVC’s contact information will appear on the front cover. But please don’t wait until then: Contact your EVC and begin your work TODAY!




On October 23 and 28, NRA members and fellow sportsmen will have the opportunity to make their voices heard on the future development of Arizona’s public shooting ranges and lands. The Arizona Game and Fish Department is seeking public input on their proposed plan for the development of public shooting ranges across the state at two upcoming public meetings. The first meeting will be held on Wednesday, October 23, from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. at the Fish and Game Department Region VI Office, 7200 E. University in Mesa. The second meeting is scheduled for Monday, October 28, from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. at the Region V Office, 555 N. Greasewood Road in Tucson. For a copy of the shooting range development plan, call the Ben Avery Shooting Range at (623) 582-8313. Public discourse on this proposed development plan will undoubtedly impact the future of shooting sports in Arizona, so NRA members and fellow sportsmen must make a strong showing.



Today, the House and Senate killed each others’ respective tort reform bills (HB 11 and SB 2014). There remains a chance, however, that a general tort reform bill may be resurrected in either or both chambers. Please call your Senators and Representatives and urge them to pass meaningful tort reform, which includes protection for the firearms industry from reckless municipal lawsuits, during this special session. If you are unsure of how to reach your Legislator, please call the Mississippi Senate information office at (601) 359-3770 or the House information office at (601) 359-3358 and ask for assistance.You can also use our "Write Your Representatives" tool.


The latest reports from the New Jersey legislature indicate that the so-called "smart gun" bill, A.700, is being held in committee for possible amendments. The NRA will continue to monitor the status of this potentially harmful bill. NRA members and fellow sportsmen should continue to contact their Assemblymembers and ask them to oppose A.700. If you are unsure of how to reach your Assemblymember, please call the main State Legislature information line, (609) 292-4840, and ask for assistance. You can also use our "Write Your Representatives" tool.


Early voting began on October 16; you can contact your local elections office for information on early voting locations. Please support NRA-PVF endorsed candidates for state and federal office. NRA members can contact the NRA-ILA Grassroots Division at (800) 392-8683 for information on the pro-gun candidates in their area, or can consult the NRA-PVF Candidate Endorsement Guide in their magazine.



Early voting begins on October 19, 20, or 21, depending on where you live; contact your local elections office for information on early voting locations. Please support NRA-PVF endorsed candidates for state and federal office. NRA members can contact the NRA-ILA Grassroots Division at (800) 392-8683 for information on the pro-gun candidates in their area, or can consult the NRA-PVF Candidate Endorsement Guide in their magazine.



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.