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October 13, 2002

READER KEN BARNES, who edits the talk.politics.guns mailing list, writes:

I've seen it twice so far on the Sunday talk shows, so it must be in the official talking points for today: "ballistic fingerprinting" has been put forward as a new law that would help catch the D.C.-area sniper. I hope you have an opportunity to debunk this idea. It's first of all a back door means of gun registration, and secondly, the comment made on NBC's Meet Tim Russert that it is a proven forensic technique "like DNA for guns" is just not true. The ballistic characteristics of a gun barrel change over time, and they can be altered, unlike a person's DNA.

Yes, I just this minute heard George Stephanopoulos raise the issue, and I'll bet it's featured in faxes from the VPC and the Brady Campaign. I've always wondered how this would work -- it seems to me that anyone with a file could get around this, and I heard Parris Glendening talking about identifying shell casings which seems dubious to me -- what are you going to do, put a barcode on them?

Anyway, I'll leave the technical issues to someone else, but here's what I've noticed from the anti-gun crowd:

"Saturday Night Specials" (cheap handguns) = Bad, must be banned

"Military Style Handguns" (expensive handguns) = Bad, must be banned

"Assault Weapons" (inaccurate, short-range rifles) = Bad, must be banned

"Sniper Rifles" (accurate, long-range rifles) = Bad, must be banned

I think I'm starting to see a pattern here.