NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


January 25, 2005

In 2000, the Maryland State Police began to keep a database on handguns sold in the state based on their unique markings (or "fingerprint") that they scratch onto a bullet. Gun manufacturers were to test-fire handguns and send the spent shell casing of each gun sold in the state to the police.

Gun control activists thought the program would help solve cases of violent crime. A state police report, however, concludes that the program contains many flaws and has done little to enhance public safety:

  • The ballistics identification system has gathered data on 43,000 guns since its inception but has not helped a single criminal investigation.
  • The system only leads police to the person who bought the gun -- many guns used in crimes are stolen, not entered into the system, or were bought in states that don't record ballistics information.
  • The procedure of collecting data from gun manufacturers does not have any safeguards, leaving the integrity of the database suspect.

Thus far, taxpayers have spent $2.5 million on the program.

The National Rifle's Association has denounced the system as a form of gun registration that affects only law-abiding gun owners.

A similar program in New York has compiled information on some 80,000 guns and has not had any "meaningful hits" in an investigation.

Source: Brian Witte, "Ballistics Statute Faulted," Washington Times, January 18, 2005.


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