Serial numbers on bullet casings


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Casca
October 10, 2004, 12:55 AM
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/news/archive/2004/10/08/state2031EDT0143.DTL


Lockyer pushes for law requiring handgun ammo to carry traceable codes
JEREMIAH MARQUEZ, Associated Press Writer

Friday, October 8, 2004

Attorney General Bill Lockyer will push for a state law requiring handgun ammunition sold in California to carry a microscopic code that would allow law enforcement to trace bullets back to the buyer.

Lockyer told The Associated Press after speaking at a gun violence conference in Los Angeles on Thursday that he was talking with state lawmakers to introduce a bill next year that would create the system.

Lockyer's office is testing the statewide tracking system and would catalog unique serial numbers on bullet casings and slugs in a database along with information about buyers, who would show identification when making a purchase.

Any bullets later linked to a crime scene could then be matched with the buyer by searching the database. Serial numbers could reduce gun violence by deterring gunman and the sharing of ammunition, officials said.

"It's a good tool to fight gangs and other criminal activity," Lockyer said.

Under the system, codes nearly invisible to the naked eye would be stamped on a bullet repeatedly to ensure some could be read after they left a gun's chamber. California would be the first state in the country to have such a system, said Randy Rossi, director of the Justice Department's firearms division.

Rossi said the system has vast potential based on recent field test in which 200 engraved handgun bullets were fired at walls, car doors and ballistics gelatin designed to replicate human targets. Of the 181 bullets recovered, 180 had codes intact and readable.

Estimated costs to manufacturers would run a penny or less for each bullet, according to Rossi and Paul Curry, a representative of Ravensforge, a Seattle, Wash.-based company that has developed bullet etching technology.

State costs would likely range between $3 million to $5 million and expenses to law enforcement agencies would be negligible, Rossi said.

Law enforcement agencies have so far responded positively to the proposed system. On Wednesday, Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn asked the Police Department to study the idea.

"It does sound like something we'd be interested in. However, we would need to make sure we have the equipment for such technology," said Sgt. Catherine Plows, an LAPD spokeswoman.

The proposed system immediately drew skepticism from representatives of gun and ammunition manufacturers as well as gun owners.

"It's another proposal designed to make it more difficult for those who make ammunition and people who enjoy firearms," said Gary Mehalik, spokesman for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, an industry group representing manufacturers of ammunition and firearms.

Officials were still determining how it might affect ammunition dealers. Many of the 1,600 gun retail outlets already have the electronic equipment needed to record information about gun buyers.

However, thousands of stores that sell ammunition but not handguns might need new identification card scanning equipment, Rossi said.

Mehalik said forcing manufacturers to emboss handgun ammunition would be costly and complicated by requiring a new process that inscribes bullets and places them in packaging with matching code numbers.

Additionally, the system could be bypassed by gun owners who make their own bullets and could lead to an underground market of uncoded ammunition, Mehalik said.

Rossi said despite the focus on the serial code system, the attorney general's office was still open to the possibility of a ballistic "fingerprinting" database to record unique identifying marks from firearms in California should the technology become feasible


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PMDW
October 10, 2004, 01:06 AM
http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?s=&threadid=104932

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