March 2003

Downrange: 03/03

FINGERPRINTING GUNS NOT SO EASY. In a report to California’s legislature, state Attorney General Bill Lockyer acknowledges his Department of Justice finds technical limitations and a poor success rate in its attempts to expand ballistic imaging technology, designed to identify individual firearms found at crime scenes, into a database encompassing non-crime firearms.

The California Department of Justice’s own Bureau of Forensic Services used fewer than 800 semi-automatic handguns to test the system, and its experts discovered failure rates as high as 62.5 percent in attempts to match cartridge components with the handguns that fired them. Each year, according to the attorney general, 80,000 such handguns are sold in California. Legislation has been proposed for mandatory collection of ballistic samples from each, for use in what some have labeled a “ballistic fingerprinting” system.

Lockyer’s report acknowledges these unacceptable rates of failure in the Department of Justice study, concluding “today’s technology is not yet adequate to handle the volume associated with adding all new guns to the database and still provide useful information for investigators

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BALLISTIC CREEP IN NEW JERSEY. A bill before the New Jersey State Assembly would require gunsmiths to obtain ballistics identifiers before returning a rifle or handgun to its owner. The bill reads, “to obtain a ballistics identifier for a rifle or handgun, the licensee shall transport the rifle or handgun to a regional center where the State Police shall ascertain a ballistics identifier for the firearm. The cost of ascertaining each such ballistics identifier shall be borne by the State Police. To help defray the transportation and other administrative costs associated with obtaining such ballistics identifiers, a licensee shall receive $5 for each rifle and handgun processed by the State Police at a regional center.” Wow. Big payday from Big Brother in New Jersey.

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SAFE EXPLOSIVES ACT IMPLEMENTED. On January 24, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF) officially implemented the Safe Explosives Act of 2002. This new statute imposes additional controls on the sale and possession of explosives used for commercial purposes.

How this affects gun owners: These changes do not affect the current requirements for the acquisition of black and smokeless powder. Permits are not required for the purchase of smokeless powder used in small arms ammunition. In the case of black powder, permits are not required when it is being used for cultural and/or sporting purposes and the purchase involves quantities of less than 50 pounds. On January 24, additional categories of persons prohibited from possessing explosives, including illegal aliens and non-immigrant aliens, go into effect. Effective May 24, 2003, persons desiring to acquire commercial explosives intrastate will be required to obtain and have in their possession a new limited user permit or other user permit, both of which are issued by ATF. The new limited permit restricts the holder to six receipts of explosives in a calendar year. Those receiving explosives more than six times per year are required to obtain the regular users permit authorized currently by law.


-by Todd Woodard