The deadly series of sniper shootings in the Washington, D.C. area has rekindled the debate over gun control.
The battle is between NRA-ers and gun control advocates.
The issue is whether “ballistic fingerprinting,” already used in New York and Maryland, is an effective crime-fighting tool.
Each new weapon leaves identifiable markings on bullets and shell casings.
Gun group controls want a law would require that a firearm be test-fired before it was sold so that gun manufacturers could register the unique “fingerprint” into a computer database accessible to law enforcement agencies.
It is believed that the technology could tell where the gun was first sold and who first bought it, which could link specific guns with gun crimes.
Federal law enforcement agents at the FBI and ATF have been using ballistic fingerprinting systems to match bullets to crime guns for more than a decade, according to the Brady Campaign To Prevent Gun Violence.
In its May 2002 report on ballistic imaging, the ATF stated that, “Though no investigative tool is perfect, or will be effective in every situation, the availability of an ‘open-case file’ of many thousands of (ballistic fingerprint) exhibits, searchable in minutes instead of the lifetimes that would be required for an entirely manual search, provides invaluable information to law enforcement authorities.”
But critics have dismissed the technology as unreliable.
“New laws don’t stop people like this,” said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer in an Oct. 15 press briefing.
“What we must do is…enforce the laws we have so that people who commit crimes, especially crimes with guns, will be fully prosecuted and serve time.”
The Bush administration argues that ballistic markings can be easily altered, making the “fingerprints” useless.
The administration also worries that a mandatory system of ballistics monitoring may violate the privacy of lawful gun owners – which would violate Bush’s relationship with the NRA.
Both Bush and the NRA strongly oppose ballistic fingerprinting, saying that it would amount to a national gun registry of firearms owners, which is prohibited by federal law.
But in the aftermath of the sniper shootings, the last thing Bush needs is to have his sympathies aligned with the NRA.
The penalty could be the congressional elections, which are days away.
So, Bush’s course of action is no action.
Bush has asked experts at the ATF to study the technology further, despite the first ATF report with 26 pages of extensive findings.
And with the pending war in Iraq, the gun control issue may not surface again until the next shooting rampage.
The serial sniper shot 14 people over a period of 3 weeks.
He used a civilian version of the M-16 military assault rifle, whose maker advertises its products as “the best by a long shot.”
But instead of taking an aggressive approach toward ending gun violence, Bush is stalling legislation that may have stopped the killings sooner.
The Temple News editorial board members are:
• Jeremy Smith, Editor in Chief
• Mike Gainer, Managing Editor
• Brian White, News Editor
• Kia Gregory, Opinion Editor
Letters to the editor can be submitted via our Web site @ www.temple-news.com under the “submissions” link. They can also be dropped off at the Temple News office located in the Student Center, Room 315.