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PostWatch: An irregular correction to the Washington Post

Brought to you by Christopher Rake


Wednesday, October 16, 2002
9:44 PM

InstaMan linked to it but I will reprint (i.e. steal) it. Yet another cogent explanation about why ballistic fingerprinting won't work. This from Robin Goodfellow:

I can tell you right now in one word why gun "fingerprinting" simply cannot work: gunsmithing. There are numerous books and tools (and videos, and TV shows) on the market and in the hands of serious gun enthusiasts which are used to do everything from making custom ammunition to modifying every aspect of a gun (including the rifling and caliber) to manufacturing guns from raw materials. The basic technology of the firearm is centuries old, the essential "difficult to make from scratch" components for firearms abound in our modern technological civilization...

One of perhaps hundreds of thousands or millions of individuals, in America alone, with moderate metal working abilities can modify an existing gun in inumerable ways to make it essentially a "new gun". Some simple work with a file, for example, can dramatically alter the "signature" of ejected casings. Some slightly more complicated work with slightly more sophisticated tools can alter the rifling of the gun and completely change the ballistic characteristics of bullets shot through the gun. Slightly more complex work than that can change the caliber of the gun. A not insubstantial number of gun enthusiasts already do this sort of thing for fun, it is neither difficult nor unknown. In a hypothetical era where all law abiding gun owners and gun manufacturers have all their guns "fingerprinted" and registered, guns with modified and/or unregistered ballistic "fingerprints" would simply become the latest option (at a slight price markup) in the illegal gun market. And that assumes that all gun owners and manufacturers could be compelled to have all their guns fingerprinted (which is doubtful, considering the "ex post facto" clause of the constitution). It also assumes that no unfingerprinted guns could ever be imported into the country, an equally dubious assumption....

Tell President Bush, while you're at it, since he's directed ATF to study the issue. They already like it, so lotsa luck there.

"Pained," one of our guests in the comments boxes, already figured this stuff out, but I'm kinda slow sometimes.

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