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The Truth About Illinois’ Ammo Serial Numbering Scheme

The Truth About Illinois’ Ammo Serial Numbering Scheme

Do you like to hunt or shoot? If so, hang onto your wallet, because ammunition could soon become prohibitively expensive if some Democrat lawmakers get their way. 

An Illinois state representative wants to impose a scheme that’s not only been proven to be a multi-million-dollar failure at solving crimes, but could also make ammunition unaffordable for honest citizens, while leaving criminals—who make millions dealing drugs, guns and (if this legislation is passed) ammunition—untouched. 

And don’t just shrug if you don’t live in Illinois: As Fox News reports, similar bills are pending in at least 20 states.

Last week, Illinois Democrat state Rep. Sonya Harper said she planned to introduce legislation that would require every round of ammunition sold in Illinois to be marked, both on the bullet and on the cartridge case, with unique serial numbers. 

Representative Harper pretends that her bullet serialization scheme will somehow help police solve crimes they couldn’t otherwise solve.

But the whole scheme is ridiculous on its face. Logic, history, and the trial and failure of similar schemes in at least two states all prove it. 

Maryland imposed a similar program in 2000. Last year, the state abandoned the scheme. Why? Maybe because even after 15 years, the system hadn’t solved even one single crime. In the meantime, Maryland had squandered $5 million on a pipe dream.… Maybe because even after 15 years, the system hadn’t solved even one single crime

In 2000, New York state also imposed a law requiring “all new handguns ... to be test-fired before they are sold, so that the telltale markings they leave on bullets and shell casings can be entered into a state computer database.” Twelve years later, New York, like Maryland, defunded the failed experiment.

No matter what you call these schemes—whether it’s “ballistic fingerprinting,” “microstamping” or “bullet serialization”—the simple fact is that they don’t work, and for a multitude of reasons:

  • Firearms wear with use, so any distinguishing engravings or toolmarks in barrels, breechfaces and firing pins will change over time with wear—and can be altered by any idiot with a file, a polisher or simple abrasives.

  • Barrels, firing pins, slides, bolts and other parts that impart unique markings to cartridge cases upon firing can all be replaced, and all can be purchased by mail-order with no paper trail.

  • Even when nothing is altered, the “fingerprints” left on cartridge cases can be extremely difficult to match. A California Department of Justice study found that when cartridge cases from different manufacturers were fired from the same gun, so-called “experts” using microscopes couldn’t match the cases to the guns that fired them 62 percent of the time.


  • Recreational shooters often reload ammunition using cases they pick up from ranges, meaning that a reloaded and refired cartridge may have markings from multiple firearms that have no link whatsoever to the person who currently possesses it.

  • Many firearms used in crimes—such as the .38 Special revolver, which for many years was the firearm most commonly used in crime—don’t expel their cartridge cases upon firing.

Let’s get real here. This isn’t about stopping crime. It’s about giving politicians a scapegoat—the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms—to further blame for crime.The latest proposal from Illinois—to require unique serial numbers on every bullet and cartridge case—is every bit as dopey.

Just consider the logistics. Manufacturers would be required to retool. Once they figured out a way to number bullets and number cartridge cases, they’d also need a way to keep track of all those numbers—in a chain-of-evidence sort of way—from the manufacturer, to the wholesaler, to the retailer, to the end purchaser. Imagine the paperwork, hassle and expense. 

Criminals could simply buy ammunition from other states that require no numbers. Or, even if every state in the nation imposed such a scheme, criminals could buy ammunition from overseas on the black market, just as they import tons of narcotics from other countries into the U.S. every day. Or they could simply cast their own bullets and reload their own ammunition. To quote Barack Obama, imagine the “ladders of opportunity” for illicit entrepreneurs! 

Let’s get real here. This isn’t about stopping crime. It’s about giving politicians a scapegoat—the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms—to further blame for crime. And it’s about making ammunition more expensive, and less available, to everyone—most effectively, for lawful people.

The fact is, police already have all the tools they need to stop the killing in places like Chicago. All they need to do is enforce the existing laws against armed, violent gangbangers and murderers. 

Every day, police catch armed, violent criminals in Chicago. But the system bounces them back out onto the streets. As we reported last year, for every 100 illegal guns seized by police from criminals in Chicago, federal prosecutors only see fit to prosecute 1 percent. One out of a hundred! 

Last week, the head prosecutor for Chicago, State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, admitted in a Chicago Tribune opinion piece that Chicago’s gun law enforcement is “a joke.” Everybody knows that—especially the criminals.

So to paste a fig leaf over their own reprehensible refusal to enforce the laws (which they already have on the books), against the most violent criminals (which they’ve already caught), they instead turn around, blame the Second Amendment and push Rube Goldberg-type schemes—like bullet serialization—that cost millions of dollars and accomplish nothing aside from making firearms, or in this case ammunition, more expensive and less available for lawful citizens. In the meantime, criminals go about their business as if nothing had changed. 

What’s more, in many cases, these “ballistic fingerprinting” or “bullet serialization” systems are only offered by one vendor, meaning that the potential for graft or corruption—where, for example, MagicBullet® MicroSystems Inc. LLC makes a friendly contribution to The Clinton Foundation in exchange for a chance to pitch their plan to End Gun Violence In America℠—is rife. 

Whatever the case, the simple fact that politicians push this garbage when they know it won’t work—and when they already have everything they need to fight crime—is a disgrace. It’s a direct danger to your right to own a gun and ammunition with which to defend yourself and your family from the criminals that they refuse to control. 

And the best way you can stop that dishonest and dangerous attack on your rights is to throw every one of these crooks out of office on Election Day this November.

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