Maryland Wastes Millions in Fingerprinting Fail

posted on November 16, 2015

Maryland has been one of the true playgrounds for the gun control fanatics for years. Despite the best efforts of the NRA and its members to bring some reason to the table, politicians there have been able to enact much of their dream “common-sense” agenda. One of the centerpieces, predictably to most, has proven to be not so commonsensical after all. It has squandered at least $5 million of the citizens’ money and has, empirically speaking, done nothing to solve a single criminal case. 

The entire debacle, instigated by the clown show that was the Parris Glendening administration, is but one more example of what I’ve always claimed: The NRA is literally always right with regard to its predictions concerning the consequences of public policy, and the gun controllers are virtually always wrong. One of the questions that fair-minded policy makers must ask themselves when it comes to the gun rights debate is when they should stop listening to those who are proven to be wrong time and time again. Glendening never came across a proposal to restrict gun rights or the right to self-defense that he didn’t fall all over himself to try to enact.

The Responsible Gun Safety Act of 2000 required, among other things, all handgun manufacturers doing business in Maryland to fire new handguns and submit a spent shell casing to the state police for entry into an imaging database. The dream was for shell casings from crime scenes to be collected and then matched to those entered into the database. The gun in question would be linked to the criminal—case closed. Fifteen long years later, it had never happened—not even a single time! 

The Baltimore Sun reported that Gov. Glendening viewed the law as “a call to the nation to take action to save lives.” President Bill Clinton was on hand for the big moment when Glendening signed the bill into law. Michael Barnes, who was president of Handgun Control Inc., told the Sun, “The governor of Maryland took on the gun lobby, he beat them, and that’s an important message for the national audience.” Barnes had a rare tangle with honesty here when he seemed to admit that the message is more important than substance, despite the waste of public resources that could have otherwise been used to do something to actually make communities safer. 

The ballistic fingerprinting program created by the 2000 legislation was mothballed for the most part in 2007 because it became apparent to all involved that it was nothing more than a sinkhole for taxpayer dollars. It took another eight years and the example from New York in 2012, but the Maryland General Assembly has finally officially scrapped its program.  

Now, to say that the Maryland General Assembly is a little radical with regard to its policy is putting things lightly. The fact that it formally recognized that it had made a big, costly blunder with the 2000 legislation by actively repealing it is stunning. It’s like trying to imagine watching Bernie Sanders admit that socialism really has been tried in a number of countries, and that he’s come to grips with the fact that it’s not all that likely to work here in America either. 

Truth is, Glendening never came across a proposal to restrict gun rights or the right to self-defense that he didn’t fall all over himself to try to enact. He was the first in the country to try to impose a “smart gun” mandate. Fortunately for him, it failed. New Jersey used his legislation as a model a little later. Now, the original legislative sponsor there is evidently preparing to repeal it. Are you getting the idea that Glendening’s ability to recognize reasonable, workable public policy is a bit wanting? 

One of the grandest public “fails” of all time was when he was attempting to mandate that all Maryland gun owners use trigger locks on their guns in order to “save the children.” Of course, the NRA opposed it for many reasons, including the fact that it would put homeowners at a terrible disadvantage when an attacker kicked the door down in the middle of the night. Glendening mocked the NRA and said that trigger locks could easily be removed, even in the heat of the moment. 

He called a press conference on the matter, complete with a handgun sporting a trigger lock that he would personally remove. He was sure the mere fractions of a second that lay ahead in his demonstration would put the NRA claims to rest once and for all. What happened? Oh, the NRA was proven right once again. Go figure. Glendening spent what seemed like an eternity struggling to unlock the gun. For everyone watching, the seconds seemed to pass like hours. The whole production could have been a “Saturday Night Live” skit. As I said, his administration was an unmitigated clown show, and I’m probably being unfair to clowns by saying so. The vast majority of criminals get their guns through illicit channels. This means that the shell casings could never be associated with them.

Mandating that guns be locked and inaccessible for self-defense is sinister and will get good people killed by emboldened attackers. The 2000 ballistic fingerprinting policy wasn’t necessarily sinister, but it was definitely stupid. The governor, undeterred, recently told The Baltimore Sun when they asked him about the repeal of the program, “… logic and common sense suggest that it would be a good crime fighting tool.” We all know how much the antis love to throw around the old “common sense” tag when they talk about their ridiculous policies. Any time we hear this, our BS alerts should be sounding full force.  

Maybe it might have seemed like common sense if you were willing to ignore all of the logic and evidence that was used to object to the program’s creation in the first place. There were a number of arguments that the governor heard but ignored, because a good anti-gunner will never allow reality to get in the way of dreams and aspirations. 

The vast majority of criminals get their guns through illicit channels. This means that the shell casings could never be associated with them. If a criminal did have a legally obtained gun, he could modify the gun’s “fingerprint” in mere seconds with a tool purchased at the Dollar General, fooling the system. Gun “fingerprints” change over time due to use. The sheer volume of casings would overwhelm any system, dooming it to failure. Finally, even if we all lived in La-La Land and everything worked as planned and criminals only acquired their guns legally, they could start to take shell casings from ranges and other public venues and use them to “pollute” a crime scene. The kindly bull’s-eye shooter down the street would be the one getting the knock on the door asking why his .45 ACP shell was found next to a dead body downtown. 

In the case of the 2000 law that has now been trashed, it probably did not directly lead to the deaths of good people (there was the diversion of meaningful law enforcement resources, but those effects would have been indirect). The same cannot be said about many of the other gun control laws in Maryland, including the tragically biased “may-issue” concealed-carry permit process that values the lives of the rich, famous and politically connected over all others. It keeps the good citizens most likely to be targeted as victims from defending themselves against violence. 

It can only be hoped that the gun prohibitionists one day understand that this is not all a game or an opportunity to create a “message for the national audience.” Their fail-certain policies have real life-or-death consequences for real people. Outside of rare instances like this one, they don’t get to simply wring their hands, shrug their shoulders and say, “Oh well, I guess it just didn’t work out this time.” At least with a clear conscience they can’t.



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