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PostWatch: An irregular correction to the Washington Post

Brought to you by Christopher Rake


Wednesday, October 23, 2002
8:26 AM

Trust me, I'm the prosecutor... Former prosecutor James Orenstein promotes ballistic fingerprinting in an Op-Ed today:

Would the proposed law have kept the Beltway sniper from beginning his rampage? Of course not; no law could. But it might easily have stopped him in his tracks after he murdered his first victims. If police could use the same technology that has already helped them link the various shootings to help them identify the killer, is there any doubt they would have a much better chance of catching him?

Yes. Guns get stolen. Quick, send him a memo.

Technological fingerprinting works; it can protect people, and its intrusion into our lives is virtually unnoticeable.

Intrusions on privacy that are unnoticeable are worse for civil liberties, not better, since they put us all to sleep. I think the man knows this.

Just as the benefits of the proposed law are much greater than the administration seems willing to acknowledge, the burden on law-abiding gun owners is much less. Yes, in theory, all new guns could be identified through the system the new law would help create. But nobody is going to use a national database to trace the bullets hunters use to shoot deer. Cops will bother to trace only the bullets that criminals use to shoot people.

Oh my. This just ignores the history of gun control, which is relentless. A fingerprinting system for new guns will lead to pressure to fingerprint all guns, which will lead to easier access to the database, which will lead to flimsier grounds for confiscation, which will lead to Australia and the U.K. Enjoy.

I am trying to think of a gun control initiative that, once passed, silenced its proponents who finally said enough is enough. Get back to you on that one.

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