Millions of dollars later, Maryland has officially decided that its 15-year effort to store and catalog the "fingerprints" of thousands of handguns was a failure.
Since 2000, the state required that gun manufacturers fire every handgun to be sold here and send the spent bullet casing to authorities. The idea was to build a database of "ballistic fingerprints" to help solve future crimes.
But the system — plagued by technological problems — never solved a single case. Now the hundreds of thousands of accumulated casings could be sold for scrap.
"Obviously, I'm disappointed," said former Gov. Parris N. Glendening, a Democrat whose administration pushed for the database to fulfill a campaign promise. "It's a little unfortunate, in that logic and common sense suggest that it would be a good crime-fighting tool."...
But the computerized system designed to sort and match the images never worked as envisioned. In 2007, the state stopped bothering to take the photographs, though hundreds of thousands more casings kept piling up in the fallout shelter.
The ballistic fingerprinting law was repealed effective Oct. 1, ending the requirement that spent casings be sent in. The General Assembly, in repealing the law, authorized the state police to sell off its inventory for scrap.
The science behind the system is valid. The scratches etched onto a casing can be matched to the gun that fired it, mapping a so-called fingerprint to the gun. The Maryland system was an expanded version of the successful but more limited federal National Integrated Ballistic Information Network started in the 1990s. It catalogs casings only from crime scenes and from guns confiscated by police. Maryland's unwieldy version collected the fingerprint from every single handgun sold in the state.
Tuesday, November 10, 2015
When Reality Conflicts With Self-Righteousness
Some years ago, one of the gun control causes was ballistic fingerprinting, recording either the rifling marks on bullets or markings on fired cases. As I pointed out in a Shotgun News article in 2002, this was not only expensive, but not really useful for solving crimes. New York and Maryland, full of self-righteous control fanatics, adopted such laws. The Nov. 7, 2015 Baltimore Sun reports: