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Gun identification program is a mistake

April 18, 2012
Westfield Republican / Mayville Sentinel News

You likely have a very good memory or an interest in firearm manufacturing if you recall then-Gov. George Pataki's announcement about establishing for a "DNA database" for handguns more than a decade ago.

It sounded like a good idea at the time. New York state would require gun manufacturers to provide the State Police with a spent cartridge shell from all new semiautomatic pistols. If gun dealers received a pistol without an accompanying spent shell, the dealer was to send it to a state Combined Ballistic Identification System center, where New York State Police would shoot each one and enter the ballistic sample into the data base. Each entry would identify the hand gun used to fire the bullet by make, model, caliber, serial number and gun type.

That data base of each shell's unique markings, Gov. Pataki declared, would be used to trace spent shells found at crime scenes.

Great idea, right?

No. It has never worked.

Not one crime has been solved with this technology since the firearm data bank was created some 10 years ago - and millions of dollars spent setting it up and maintaining it over the years. With more than 356,000 spent casings on file in the state system, there has been over the past 10 years a total of only two "hits" ever and neither helped solve a crime.

Assemblyman Joseph M. Giglio, a Republican from Gowanda, explains why, in part.

"The purpose of this system was to help solve crimes. That's all well in good, except when the majority of crimes committed are done with illegal guns - not licensed, legal and registered firearms,'' he said.

There also are problems with the technology - different brands of ammunition produce different markings, the markings on cartridge casings can be easily altered and, anyway, the very process of microscopically examining all potential "hits" is problematic.

The estimates of money spent on this range from $1.2 million a year to up to $40 million if you include the initial costs of setting up and then maintaining the data bank year to year.

Whatever it is, the waste is over. One of this year's state budget bills includes a clause repealing legislation that created the Combined Ballistic Identification System.

Some of the money will be shifted to support New York's participation in the federal National Integrated Ballistic Information Network - a system more likely to help law enforcement because it tracks spent shells from guns used in crimes and not simply from those that were legally sold.

Giglio warns, however, there is another problematic and expensive proposal still in the works - one to require gun makers to install a device to microstamp ID marks on spent cartridge shells as they are ejected from hand guns.

Tom King, president of the New York Rifle and Pistol Association, points out the obvious problems. First, the system would, once again, target legal gun owners, who are rarely the ones involved in committing crimes. And, second, he said, the technology is unproven, it is easy to circumvent and it does not work at all on revolvers because spent shells are not automatically ejected.

Gov. Cuomo supports the microstamping, but it has been blocked in the state Senate.

Good.

It would only be yet another multi-million boondoggle.

 
 

 

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