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Political Report | Gun Control Failures: Déjà Vu All Over Again

Political Report | Gun Control Failures: Déjà Vu All Over Again

Photo credit: Michael Ives

This feature appears in the February ‘16 issue of NRA America’s 1st Freedom, one of the official journals of the National Rifle Association. 

Over the years, just about every anti-gun law imaginable has been pushed by those arrayed against us. From registration and licensing to outright gun bans—including mandates for unworkable policies right out of science fiction—the gun control playbook is as wide as it is deep. Now, hundreds of millions of Americans live in Right-to-Carry states—and the anarchy of Wild West shootouts the other side warned of hasn’t come to pass.

A one-handgun-a-month policy was tried in Virginia and South Carolina, but it didn’t stop gun crime and both states later repealed the laws. Dozens of states at some time have prohibited your right to self-defense while in public, despite evidence showing that citizen self-defense reduces crime and protects innocent lives. Now, hundreds of millions of Americans live in Right-to-Carry states—and the anarchy of Wild West shootouts the other side warned of hasn’t come to pass. 

You might have missed the news that one of the most illogical, expensive and irrelevant gun control schemes ever devised was shuttered last fall in Maryland. For years, Maryland had been funding a “ballistic fingerprinting” program called the Maryland Integrated Ballistics Identification System (MD-IBIS). Last year, after an estimated $5 million had been spent—all without a single crime being solved with the database—the Legislature repealed the failed program. 

The Maryland law was among the first to require that all new handguns be “ballistically fingerprinted” before they could legally be sold in the state. Gun manufacturers were required to test-fire every gun and package the spent bullet casing with the firearm. The casing was then to be forwarded to state authorities when the gun was sold so it could be included in a database of “ballistic fingerprints” to theoretically link future crimes with “fingerprints” already on file. 

As NRA predicted 13 years ago, the program was a complete—but very costly—failure. A 2014 report by the Maryland State Police (MSP) Forensic Sciences Division revealed that “the Maryland ballistic imaging database failed to function as designed. As a result, imaging was ceased in April 2007 and permanently abandoned in 2008.” The imaging database itself is currently “inactive.”  

This isn’t surprising. A state police progress report on the ballistic imaging program 10 years earlier had confirmed that “[c]ontinuing problems include the failure of the MD-IBIS to provide any meaningful hits,” that the “cost per hit value” was $427,939, and that “no crime investigations …[had] been enhanced or expedited” through the use of the database. The report recommended that the law be repealed. Experience illustrates that many such proposals will do nothing more than fleece taxpayers and unfairly burden law-abiding firearm manufacturers, retailers and gun owners.

And New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, architect of the so-called SAFE Act (which he repeatedly describes as the strongest gun control law in the country), pulled the plug on his state’s ballistic fingerprinting program, the Combined Ballistics Identification System (COBIS), in 2012. Underscoring the lack of a demonstrated benefit to law enforcement, a Cuomo spokesman reportedly said, “We are ending a program that doesn’t solve crimes or make our streets safe.” No doubt the price tag was an issue, too, given that the cost was estimated as anywhere between $1.2 million a year to $40 million in total—money that would be better used for reality-based solutions to combat crime. 

Despite the lack of any law enforcement value and the staggering costs to taxpayers, these and other laws—“microstamping,” “assault weapon” bans, “universal” background checks—continue to be pushed by gun control groups as “common-sense measures” to address gun violence, even where evidence shows such policies do not benefit public safety.  

Experience illustrates that many such proposals will do nothing more than fleece taxpayers and unfairly burden law-abiding firearm manufacturers, retailers and gun owners. After all, there seems to be nothing to show for the Maryland project except, perhaps, the 340,000 shell cases taking up three rooms at state police headquarters. 

But in spite of this reality, anti-gun groups and politicians continue to call for passage of such failed and discredited policies. The semi-automatic ban, expanded background checks, so-called “smart” gun mandates and ballistic fingerprinting are all tried-and-failed ideas that make up the core of the anti-gun wish list. 

This is why gun owners can never stand by and allow the opposition to successfully push what they carefully describe as “reasonable” gun laws. They are not reasonable, they do not assist law enforcement and they do not deter criminals. These laws impact only law-abiding gun owners, and this is precisely the reason those who stand against our liberties pursue failed gun control policies again and again. And this is why NRA will continue to oppose them.