Maryland's Ballistic 'Fingerprinting' System Proves Cumbersome

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:21 PM EDT

( - More than three years after Maryland adopted a "ballistic fingerprinting" system for all new handguns, state police are opposing calls for the program to be expanded, the NRA Institute for Legislative Action reported.

According to the ILA, Maryland's "ballistic fingerprinting" database has so far failed to solve a single crime, and it's costing $2-million to maintain.

A report in the February 2004 American Rifleman noted, "The database has generated four matches, and in each case, police already had the gun they were trying to trace." The article cites a 40-page report issued by the director of the Maryland state police crime lab.

Even though the Maryland database has failed to solve any crimes, anti-gun groups want to expand the program to include rifles and shotguns -- not just handguns -- the ILA reported.

The Maryland law, adopted in the fall of 2000, requires gun makers to test-fire all new handguns shipped into Maryland so each gun has a "ballistic fingerprint" on record. Each spent shell casing has unique markings that police theoretically could use to identify guns that were used in crimes.

But as the NRA's Wayne LaPierre noted in a 2002 television interview, "A sniper, a criminal with steel wool, with a cleaning kit, with a drill can completely change the [shell casing] characteristics in the time it takes someone to drink a cup of coffee." Moreover, LaPierre said, "Every time you fire a gun, the ballistics change."

The NRA and many Second Amendment supporters oppose "ballistic fingerprinting" for a number of reasons, including the unreliability of the data collected and the failure of such databases to catch criminals.

See Earlier Stories:
White House Bites the Bullet on 'Ballistic Fingerprinting' (21 Oct. 2002)

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