Monday, February 02, 2009

Maryland 1, New York 0

by blogger jmj

The State of New York has spent $7 million dollars since 2001 to test fire new handguns and enter the minute markings the guns make on the shell casings into a searchable database. Proponents contend that the unique markings left behind can later be compared to shell casings found at crime scenes. However, with over 200,000 "fingerprints" in the system, the database has yet to lead to a criminal prosecution.

Opponents to the database argue that the markings left by the gun change over the long term and can be deliberately altered. They also point out that the majority of guns involved in crimes are not used by their legal owner, but are stolen or otherwise obtained by the criminal. They conclude that the amount of money and time dedicated to the record keeping of every gun sold is a wasted effort since less than one percent of all guns sold will ever be used in a crime.

Politicians in Albany however need only direct the attention of these naysayers to Maryland where a similar system has been in place since 2000. With only one more year under their belt than New York, Maryland already has one conviction to their credit.

Seven years ago, New York started a database of "ballistic fingerprints" for all new handguns sold in the state. The bill's backers sold it as a crime-solving device, arguing that the state would now have a sample of a spent shell and bullet for every new gun sold. This, they said, would help police connect future evidence from crime scenes to specific guns.

Since then, the authorities have entered 200,000 newly purchased guns into the database and spent $1 million dollars a year on the system. Yet it hasn't led to a single solved crime. The only other state with such a database, Maryland, can attribute at least one conviction to the system since it was created in 2000-more than zero, but few enough that the state's own Police Forensics Division has suggested scrapping the program because of its demonstrated lack of benefits.

2009... should be your year, New York!


Ayrlyn said...

What about guns carried from other states? If you work with guns sold in your state, you are still losing out on 49 other states, and even other countries if they are smuggled in.

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