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Told ya

Like everyone who knew anything about guns predicted all along, the ballistic fingerprinting pipe dream doesn’t work:

A report by the Maryland State Police that recommends repeal of a law requiring collection of ballistic imaging information “shatters one of the favorite myths of gun control extremists,” the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (CCRKBA) said today.

In its progress report on the Integrated Ballistics Identification System (IBIS), the Maryland State Police Forensic Sciences Division recommends that “this program be suspended, a repeal of the collection of cartridge cases from current law be enacted and the Laboratory Technicians associated with the program be transferred to the DNA database unit.” So far, Maryland has spent $2.5 million over the past four years, with nothing to show for it. The report admitted, “Guns found to be used in the commission of crime…are not the ones being entered into” the system.

25 Responses to “Told ya”

  1. SayUncle : Ballistic Fingerprint Follow-up Says:

    […] 621″>
    Ballistic Fingerprint Follow-up
    |By Thibodeaux|

    Say Uncle’s post on ballistic fingerprinting drew an Instalanche the other day. Kevin of the Smallest Minority […]

  2. cube Says:

    I am fairly green, could you explain why the idea would not work.

    I can see their problem of the guns not being indexed, but would it would seem that that could be solved by indexing all the guns.

    Would not not work from a more technical perpestive.

  3. SayUncle Says:

    Try a search of the site.

  4. Mike Trettel Says:

    Cube, I live in Maryland and am quite familiar with how the ballistic fingerprinting thing is supposed to work. Basically, a single round is fired from every new handgun to be sold in state, and the cartridge/bullet is then tagged and placed in a database. The idea is that the “unique” markings associated with the fired round can be used to track any bullets and/or cartridges found at a crime scene. It’s terribly flawed because the sample size is far too small (a single fired round does not provide enough useful data)-and it’s easily defeated by prosaic measures. Run a file over the firing pin, and you’ve altered the markings. Scrub the barrel with an abrasive cleanser, and you’ve altered them even more. Just swap some parts around-such as the ejector, the barrel, whatever-and you’ve beat the system. There’s plenty of ways to alter a gun so that the ballistic markings are changed without harming the gun-it’s a machine after all. It also assumes that criminals buy new handguns at legal gun shops-and how likely is that? The real intent of the law (in my opinion) was to make the legal sale of new handguns in Maryland as painful as possible.

  5. rt Says:


  6. Duke of DeLand Says:

    “rt” above hits some salient points, however misses the most glaring reason for failure of this system. There is no way to gather samples from the guns likely to be used in crime….ie the “hot”, stolen, oft-sold street guns.

    Most figures for gun crime reflect that gun owners are not the users of guns for criminal purposes (some exception in the area of family squabbles), the criminals themselves deal in a whole underbelly of guns already illegal because of their origin as stolen devices.


  7. Mark Says:

    This is a small but critical win for the Right to keep and bear arms. Hopefully many places will be looking to cut these kind of intrusive and ineffective programs. For some good companion reading on the subject check out this “mcpundit” article…

  8. Pajama Pundits Says:

    Ballistic Imaging Doesn’t Work
    Will anti-RKBA lawmakers and gun control advocates SayUncle now?Laws in New York and Maryland require that a fired cartridge case from each handgun sold in the state be provided for entry into the respective state’s IBIS database. Extremist gun control

  9. triticale Says:

    It wouldn’t even take intent to change the “fingerprint”. A lot of use, a little carelessness with a cleaning rod, or even neglect with regard to cleaning the arm after firing would be enough to make a difference.

  10. countertop Says:

    Mike Trettl,

    Your description is pretty good but glosses over the one fact that realy dooms the program. Simply firing the gun changes the ballistic fingerprint.

    Most people, let alone criminals, don’t undertake allt he steps you’ve outlined to change teh fingerprint. If they did, those steps could be easily regulated. What can’t be is the fact that every time you fire the gun it wears a little more. After 1000 rounds (ie: not very many) the barrel, extractor, and firing pin markings are wholly different.

    THis of course doesn’t change the way cops still operate in matching spent rounds to a particular gun that they uncover shortly after a crime occurs. In those instances, its quite easy to go back and compare the bullet markings if the alleged gun hasn’t been used further.

  11. big dirigible Says:

    For the tyros –

    Trying to identify the owner of a gun by its marks on cases and bullets is like trying to identify the driver of a car by a photo of its tire tracks. It’s useless for cars which have been stolen, have a few miles on the tires, or have had the tires changed. And yes, you can change gun barrels (and all the other parts), some more easily than others, and that wipes out most of the ballistic trail. I can remove and install a barrel on one of my guns, an old Colt auto, in slightly more than five seconds. My other guns are slower in the barrel-change department, and might take up to a minute to remove and install. Still others take longer and require tools. Those who don’t know one end of a gun from the other often don’t believe this. I demonstrated it to a few lawyers a couple of years ago, and it does seem to have affected their opinions on the fingerprinting issue. Prior to my demo, all they knew about guns they’d learned on TV.

    I wrote up an informative web site on this issue, with photos of good examples, but I found SO MANY good examples it looked too much like a “gun lust” site. I thought that might be counterproductive, so I never posted it. If the issue is going to move onto the front burner again, maybe I’ll have to reconsider.

  12. Roger Ohlsson Says:

    Fingerprinting of firearms can be useful in helping to solve a crime. It is not a crime for a law abiding citizen to own a firearm. Gun control advocates promote ideas that, to the non-gun owner, that sound sensible…workable or not. The gun control people have one ultimate goal; disarming this country. They will stop at nothing to achieve this.

  13. TallDave Says:

    I don’t understand why this wouldn’t work. Can’t they just require all criminals to register their guns before committing a crime?

  14. Ray Gratrix Says:

    Mike Trettel hit it on the head – the intent of these laws are to basically harass citizens who wish to purchase guns – a lot of the anti-gun crowd knows these laws are useless, they just don’t care. They want to make buying a gun as much of a hassle as possible, so some people will be deterred from buying because it isn’t worth the bother to them. Plus they can make dramatic announcements in the news about the wonderful new law they support.

  15. Bob Says:

    “Cant they just require all criminals to register their guns before committing a crime?”

    Once you stop laughing after you’ve said this with a straight face, maybe Captian Obvious will realize that the bad guys don’t follow “reqirements” (ie “laws”) in the first place…thats why they’re called bad guys.

  16. Mike Trettel Says:

    Countertop and triticale bring out another point which I didn’t mention-simple use alone changes the markings or fingerprint. I was trying to cover a clear intent to alter the fingerprint, none of which is illegal to do. Any use over a period of time is going to alter the fingerprint anyway, so a gun that was fingerprinted when new is pretty likely to have a differing fingerprint if used in a crime years later (especially if heavily used). With that said, I expect nothing to change here, the General Assembly will studiously ignore the police report as long as possible.

  17. Greg Says:

    TallDave, Great sense of humor. I for one no you didn’t write that line with a straight face.

  18. mistercalm Says:

    I’m not a gun owner, but having a bit of mechanical knowledge (and a history of watching “Cold Case Files” on A&E) convinces me that this is simply a waste of taxpayer money so that gun control advocates can brag to their constituents about the “progressive” program they’ve helped enact. Why don’t we just fingerprint everybody, regardless of whether or not they’ve committed a crime or are entering a high-security field and keep their little fingerprints on file in case they decide to commit a crime later? Because it’s stupid, that’s why! I still make the case for freedom… if I’ve done nothing to warrant fingerprinting me, then why the hell should I consent to it? One could argue, beyond the silliness and uselessness, that the same applies to legal gun purchasers.

  19. John of Argghhh! Says:

    What’s wrong with a gun lust site?


  20. Dan the Man Says:

    The comment by big dirigible is well taken. I remember an old Perry Mason episode where, in front of the jury, he took the barrel out of a Colt Pocket auto and switched it out with one from another gun, solving the case. Who says you can’t learn about guns from watching TV!

  21. cube Says:

    yea changing the barrels and the like was kinda obvious to me (i am not that green 🙂 ).

    I was more intrested in what wear did to it, and not intentional changing the fingerprint of the gun, because you can always out smart the system.

    thanks for the info

  22. Alphecca Says:

    Around Town…Gun Stuff
    mAss Backwards examines a new defensive er, weapon designed for women. He finds it rather lacking… Confederate Yankee is also doing a fisking, of NBC News. Reader Jay Fishman points me to this employment opportunity as public affairs director of…

  23. big dirigible Says:

    Changing the barrels isn’t just a way to “beat the system.” Unless you’re conversant with the National Firearms Act of 1934 and the Gun Control Act of 1968, you might not know that the frame or receiver of a gun is the ONLY part which is identified by law – that is, it has a serial number which cannot legally be altered. Ballistic fingerprinting examines the markings made on a cartridge case or bullet. Those marks are not made by the frame or receiver. They are made by other non-numbered parts which are often replaced, and not just by criminals. Barrel replacement is routine, and not too exotic even on new guns, particularly target guns. And what of guns which are sold with multiple barrels? Which one gets “fingerprinted”?

    As far as natural wear goes, a gun can shoot many thousands of rounds without being worn out – but how long do the “fingerprint” features persist? “Fingerprinting” boosters aren’t saying, and for good reason. They have yet to demonstrate that any useful information survives 10 shots, let alone a thousand. As for anyone actually putting thousands of rounds through a gun – moderately serious target shooters will shoot that many in a few weekend’s practice.

    Nobody has to “outsmart” the system – it outsmarts itself.

  24. Kevin Baker Says:

    If you want a bit more in-depth explanation of the problems with “ballistic fingerprinting” I put up a post on it The View From North Central Idaho - "Ballistic Fingerprinting" fails Says:

    […] […]