Under a proposal, Illinois could be the first to enact ammunition coding legislation that would require unique serial numbers on bullets sold in the state.
The measure was debuted at a press conference this week with Chicago Police, community activists, a representative from a company selling such technology and state Rep. Sonya M. Harper, an area Democrat, who is set to introduce the bill in coming days.
“We are here today introduce new legislation in the state of Illinois to require that every bullet sold in the state to be coded with its own serial number,” said Harper. “The last time I checked, there were no gun stores anywhere near my district. Where are they coming from? We are not trying to get rid of responsible gun owners’ guns. We just want to know how the guns and the bullets are getting into the hands of our youth and causing senseless harm and murder on our streets.”
Harper brought Dr. Matt Harrington, CEO of Ammo Coding Systems with her to the conference, who argued the technology exists today to serialize bullets, specifically to laser engrave a number on both the bullet base and case. Under ACS’s program, once a box of ammunition is sold, the buyer’s drivers license would be linked to the serial number block in that box and stored in their database for retrieval.
“Ammo Coding Systems exists to track ammunition from creation to the point of sale, leaving a precise footprint of everywhere the ammunition travels,” said Harrington, whose company contends an ammo maker can begin coding bullets for $500,000. “By implementing this system that identifies individuals, who illegally sell weapons that sensibly take lives, will ultimately and quickly save lives.”
ACS lists results of three tests— the last in 2004– on their website in which they were able to recover a readable bullet in 254 of 275 rounds fired. It should be noted that the smallest bullet tested was a 147-grain 9mm and, in many instances, the rounds were fired into a four-foot long tube of chipped tires.
According to gun trace data from recovered crime scene firearms by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives for 2014, some 28,712 shotguns were traced as well as 51,535 rifles and pistols in calibers smaller than what ACS has tested. This amounts to a third of the firearms recovered including some 34,771 .22 caliber weapons– the second most popular caliber traced overall.
Harrington, who stated at the conference that 55 billion bullets are made in the U.S. every year, advised once the ball got rolling the industry could move to serialization nationwide within five years and doing so would add about $0.02 to a box of 20 bullets. He also argued that manufacturers would likely code all their bullets to comply with Illinois law should it be adopted.
“There are 58 manufacturers of ammunition in the United States,” said Harrington. “Do you think they are going to make one line only for Illinois and the rest for 49 other states, or just make one line?”
Harper’s office advises she will introduce the bill to the legislature this week.