A Must Read

The state of Maryland has spent a great deal of money collecting a database of fired cartridges. The idea was that a gun used in a crime could be traced by examining the unique markings left after a gun is fired.

This sounds like a great idea to people who aren’t familiar with the technical side of firearms, and they’ve been very vocal about how the database is worthwhile because it will solve crimes.

Those of us who actually work with firearms on a regular basis have always considered the concept to be somewhat less respectable than those espoused by the Flat Earth Society.

It’s a sad fact that many people have opinions, sometimes very strong opinions, on subjects about which they know nothing. I’m reminded of a remark I overheard a decade ago after a vicious arguement between a gun-control proponent and a self-defense advocate. (The self-defense advocate wasn’t me this time around.) As the gun-grabber walked away, his opponent in the debate said “There goes a guy who’s so ignorant he’s willing to fight to the death to keep from being educated.”

The reason why I’m bringing this up is due to the news that the Maryland State Police are saying that the BF program should be scrapped since it doesn’t work. This should lay the issue to rest, since I doubt too many people want to spend their tax dollars on something that is worthless. But it’s also true that, before the first dime was spent, anyone involved in the shooting sports could have said that it wouldn’t work. Many of them did say this very thing, but they were overruled and laws were passed that wasted $2.5 million.

It would appear that the main reason why this was done was that many people are completely illiterate when it comes to firearms. Another way to put it would be to say that snake oil salesmen can only thrive when they have a large population of unsophisticated people to prey upon.

Lucky for us, Kevin Baker at The Smallest Minority has written a post on this subject. He explains the issue, discusses the science, and proves his point by using links and pictures. Highly recommended.

Unfortunatly, it would appear that it’s very difficult for some to get a clue even when the evidence is overhwelming.

10 thoughts on “A Must Read”

  1. Hi James,

    Okay, now I’m curious… what is it that you do where you “actually work with firearms on a regular basis”? Just trying to get some perspective on your perspective. Guess I haven’t been readin Chicagoboyz long enough to know what all your backgrounds are. Me: I’m certainly someone whose unfamiliar with technical aspects of firearms.

  2. “.. what is it that you do where you “actually work with firearms on a regular basis”?

    The short answer is that I’m a self defense instructor.

    The long answer is…well, long.

    14 years ago, my experiences while working as a fingerprint technician for my local police department prompted me to start a free self defense class for vicitms of violent crime. Realizing that waiting for people to become victims before teaching them to defend themselves was self-defeating, I expanded the course to include those who couldn’t afford instruction anywhere else. So far I’ve had more than 600 students.

    Presently I’m a fully accredited firearms instructor. Besides my own course, I’ve also donated my time and expertise to the local chapter of The Pink Pistols, a group which not only advocates gun ownership in the gay community but which also offers free safety instruction to any who asks. (And, just in case it matters, I’m not gay myself.)

    This isn’t to say that I’m unique in any way. There’s thousands of people who are willing to help by teaching basic skills for free. One of them is Kevin Baker, the guy who I linked to in the post above.


  3. The very first time I posted on blog, I posted on this very issue. Some Lefty senator was calling opponents of the shell database immoral because the idea was obviously such a good one. I objected that many valid technical considerations would make the system inoperable.

    That was something like four years ago. I get tired of being right.

  4. “That was something like four years ago. I get tired of being right.”

    You definately were right. But please allow me to ask a personal question. Do you shoot regularly? Would you consider yourself an expert in gunsmithing or the shooting sports?


  5. I’ve long since concluded that the gun controlers don’t really expect measures like these to “work”, in the sense of lowering crime, or aiding the police. The inconvenience and cost to gun owners is what they’re aiming for. In the long run, if they can make gun ownership enough of a hassle, the number of gun owners in the next generation will decline, and perhaps we’ll lose enough political clout that they can get the outright ban they really want.

    But that’s not a motive they can openly admit, and still hope to get the programs enacted.

  6. James R. Rummel

    “Do you shoot regularly”

    Not any more. I grew up on a farm/ranch and hunted as a natural course of my environment. My experience their drives my “guns as tools” philosophy.

    “Would you consider yourself an expert in gunsmithing or the shooting sports?”

    No but I can disassemble and clean everything short of full auto, lay in a rifle site and I am an amateur student of the history of technology of which firearms play an important part.

    My initial rejection of this proposal came not from knowledge of firearms but from knowledge of real world technical measurement. The ability to measure the unique attributes of each bullet and casing, get all those measurements into a database and then remeasure a found bullet and then connect that back to a specific weapon out of tens or hundreds of thousands of weapons, simple doesn’t exist.

    Combined with the natural alteration that weapons experience in normal use, the ability to rapidly change barrels and even firing pins and other means of altering the weapons signature, this system was bound to fail.

  7. “…..I am an amateur student of the history of technology of which firearms play an important part.”

    More people should have your background. It would make my life easier.


  8. Brett Bellmore hit the nail on the head – the purpose is not to build a useful tool for crimefighting, the purpose is to make it more difficult for individuals to aquire and keep firearms. The effort is, and the gun control groups state this implicitly, to reduce the number of guns, because they ALL blame “the number of guns” in circulation for the level of gun violence we have here.

    The British did a yeoman’s job of making gun ownership an onerous privilege to exercise, then used the rules under which that privilege is exercised to remove whole classes of firearms…

    From the law-abiding subjects. The criminals, however, still have access to pretty much anything they want.

    Note this passage from the second Maryland report:

    The Vision of the MD-IBIS Program was to have it fully performing in three to five years. This was to include the amassing of some 30,000 database images per year. This projection fell and was embarrassingly overstating. The actual acquisition of cartridge case numbers was about 36% of the estimation. The main reason for this drop-off appears to be from the reduction of handgun sales in Maryland after the passage of the law.

    Now, did those sales actually disappear, or did they go black-market? Did this law really reduce the influx of handguns into Maryland by nearly two-thirds, or did it make a whole bunch of Marylanders into instant criminals?

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