When gun laws crumble under their own weight
by Ben Bullard
Gun control is one of the policy points that stimulates, more than nearly any other, the legislative impulse to do something. The tweaking is endless, and it occurs at every level of government.
It’s an old saw that all we need to do is enforce the laws we already have, instead of to create new ones; and it’s not exclusive to gun control. But when it comes to guns and regulation, we passed the point long ago — not only in principle, but in actual matter of fact — when implementing a raft of laws and policies would have been workable.
Case in point: Maryland’s decision last week to lower the curtain on a 15-year-old initiative that was supposed to “fingerprint” every new handgun so that the casings it ejects could always be traced back and associated with that gun’s microscopic internal features. Building a database around this info was supposed to help solve crimes by tracking down known weapons and their succession of owners.
The state had 15 years and “millions of dollars” to get it done, according to The Baltimore Sun.
What did it have to show for its time and resources? Not a single solved case.
From The Sun:
Millions of dollars later, Maryland has officially decided that its 15-year effort to store and catalog the “fingerprints” of thousands of handguns was a failure.
Since 2000, the state required that gun manufacturers fire every handgun to be sold here and send the spent bullet casing to authorities. The idea was to build a database of “ballistic fingerprints” to help solve future crimes.
But the system — plagued by technological problems — never solved a single case. Now the hundreds of thousands of accumulated casings could be sold for scrap.
There’s a stockpile of 300,000 casings left over from the initiative, “one from each new handgun sold here since the law took effect,” the Sun adds.
“… Each casing was meticulously stamped with a bar code, sealed in its own envelope and filed in boxes stacked from floor to ceiling.”
New York also tried a database project of its own, but it failed back in 2012 — four years after the U.S. Department of Justice began toying with the idea of creating a national database of its own, before concluding that “such an endeavor would be impractical and a waste of money.”
In all, Maryland’s program cost roughly $5 million and created problems that would never have existed if the law had never been passed. The state sued the maker of the finicky software intended to match shell casings with their weapons. The measure became a perennial political football, the subject of repeal efforts dating all the way back to 2004.
Not all gun control laws will crumble under their own weight. But the more we have on the books, the more they’ll burden the systems tasked with their enforcement — and the more they’ll oppress law-abiding citizens — Americans who’d get along just fine abiding by the 27 simple words in the 2nd Amendment.