12/02 Backdoor Gun Registry

Schumer — Backdoor Gun Registry
Larry Pratt

On NBC’s Meet The Press (10/20/02), Democrat Senator Charles Schumer of New York, defending a “fingerprinting” program for guns, quoted Randy Rossi approvingly. Rossi is the head of the Firearms Division of California’s Department Of Justice, who has said that such a program would be “a fabulous opportunity.”

Well, I agree. In fact, I would go so far as to say that “fabulous” is the perfect word to describe the gun “fingerprinting” idea since the word “fabulous” is from the word “fable” which my dictionary defines as meaning, among other things: A “story… not founded on fact, myths… idle talk; false statement, lie; thing only supposed to exist.” This same dictionary defines “fabulous” as meaning “incredible, absurd, exaggerated.”

Like many of those pushing the gun “fingerprinting” fraud, Schumer wants us to believe that the longer such a program is in effect, and the more guns that are “fingerprinted,” the more effective this program will be. On this same Meet The Press program he noted that it took about 10 years for the criminal fingerprinting program to be effective. So, he is, of course, in favor of a national gun “fingerprinting” database, according to an Associated Press story (10/21/02).

But, not surprisingly, the opposite of what Schumer says is true. As John Lott told us in an interview, the larger the gun “fingerprinting” database, “the harder it will be to differentiate between the ‘fingerprints’ of guns.” And the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) cites a study which supports what Lott says.

The NSSF says that a study by the Bureau of Forensic Service at the California Department Of Justice has concluded that “automated computer matching [ballistic imaging] systems do not provide conclusive results.” Moreover, this study says that attempting to increase the number of shell casings through mass sampling of firearms sold in California would lead to a failure in the system: “The number of candidate cases would be so large as to be impractical and will likely create logistic complications so great that they cannot be effectively addressed.”

This study also reportedly says: “When applying this technology to the concept of mass sampling of manufactured firearms, a huge inventory of potential candidates will be generated for manual review.” Thus, the expansion of the database of spent shell casings will generate so many “hits” that could be potential matches, it would not be of any use to forensic examiners.

The NSSF also points out that firearms “fingerprinting” is not like literal fingerprinting, and it is not “ballistic DNA,” as some people have called it: “Unlike DNA or fingerprints that do not change over time, the unique marks that can identify a particular bullet or shell casing change due to a number of environmental and use factors. Barrels and operating parts of firearms change with use, wear and tear over time. Moreover, a person can, within minutes, use a file to scratch marks in a barrel or breech face, or replace a firing pin, extractor, and barrel thereby giving a firearm a completely ‘new’ ballistic identity.”

Finally, on Meet The Press, Schumer, seeking to downplay the fact that gun “fingerprinting” has thus far been a flop in Maryland and his home state of New York, said the Maryland program “has just started.” However, he added, Maryland and New York together “have about 40,000 fingerprints of bullets fired from guns” — as if these numbers in and of themselves proved the success of these programs.

But, once again, Schumer is wrong. The Maryland program is two years old and has cost about $4 million. The New York program began in March of 2001 and its start-up cost was $4 million. And, of course, Schumer said nothing about how many crimes committed with guns have been solved by either program. The results? The Maryland program has collected about 17,000 casings (not “bullets”). It has produced two matches which are being “investigated” — no arrests, no convictions. The New York program has collected a little over 29,000 casings (not “bullets”) — with zero matches.

Interestingly, one of the most liberal newspapers in the country, the Baltimore Sun, has been intellectually honest enough to take a stand against the gun “fingerprinting” fraud. In an editorial headlined “Rush To Judgment” (10/20/02), the paper said, in part:

    Fear raised by the sniper’s actions shouldn’t be an excuse to rush ineffective or illogical measures into law. It shouldn’t make the regulation of firearms — already a cumbersome and bureaucratic endeavor thanks to the sheer number of guns produced and sold in this country — even more unwieldy.

    Example: The sniper has revived debate over ballistic fingerprinting laws, and spurred some calls for an expansion of these laws to include rifles like the one the killer is probably using. That’s probably a bad idea….

    But the [ballistic fingerprinting] system is costly and burdensome with little short-term payoff; in Maryland, some 17,000 weapons have been cataloged, but only two cases have been aided by the system since it began two years ago. Adding rifles and some legal assault weapons to the mix would boost costs and further stretch resources, and it wouldn’t likely make a big dent in gun crimes.